Saturday, February 20, 2016

Victims Angered, Disappointed at HHS Refusal

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

What might seem to some to be an expected bureaucratic decision is proving to be anything but for some victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
The decision triggering an angry reaction came from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, who flatly rejected a request from four U.S. Senators that she waive millions of dollars in Medicare liens being levied against victims of the fatal outbreak.
Such a waiver, she concluded, would not be consistent with agency policy. Federal officials contend they are legally obligated to try to recoup monies paid under the Medicare program for the treatment of beneficiaries who were victims of the outbreak.
In comments and postings on social media, the victims have expressed special outrage that the federal government is seeking to extract its share of a $200 million trust fund, when many believe it was the failure of federal and state agencies that allowed the outbreak to occur.
The 2012 outbreak has been blamed on a now defunct Massachusetts drug compounding that managed to operate for years on the outer edges of the regulatory radar. In 2012 the New England Compounding Center shipped thousands of fungus riddled vials of an injectable steroid to health facilities across the country.
Dennis O'Brien, a Tennessee victim, said he gets the policy part, "But 778 people were affected and 76 died. My life will be forever changed by this fungal meningitis. The amount of money we are going to get is so small in comparison to our physical and emotional injuries and needs."
Others put it more bluntly.
"Over 60 people murdered by NECC over three years ago and not one dime paid to the victims or their families," one victim wrote on this blog site.
"I want to scream and curse right now," wrote another.
"Just another knife in our back," yet another victim added.
With Burwell's decision rejecting a blanket waiver, negotiations between the U.S. Justice Department and attorneys for the victims led by Boston attorney Thomas Sobel will continue. If that fails, each case will probably have to be negotiated separately and lengthy delays have been predicted.
Brenda Bansale, a Michigan victim, said it was "a disappointment to know that the very people who need the financial help the most are the very ones who will be affected the most by this decision.
"The lack of governmental oversight on the compounding industry is what helped cause this mess in the first place and now they have their hands in the cookie jar. It's not right."
Another victim cited the years of deficient regulatory oversight.
With out being involved in the legal field on a daily basis, it is very hard to understand.  I can't see how any outcome will be "fair and reasonable" in the eyes of the victims and their families."
O'Brien said while he was disappointed in Burwell's decision, he wasn't surprised.
"Now a large part of some very needed money is gone. And now the money will be tied up negotiating with insurance companies.  It's been 3 1/2 years. Hasn't it been long enough," he asked.




  1. If they take total reimbursement, I will end up with NOTHING, as I was in and out several times in 2012, then during my relapse in 2013, I was in St. Thomas 2 months, then a rehab facility 4 weeks. I had a Human policy in addition to Medicare, so I don't know how that will work with this. I am totally disappointed, as we will not be reimbursed enough to even cover our out-of-pocket medicine costs. I had hoped to do some good with part of our settlement, but now that will not happen either.

  2. The victims of NECC are being victimized in more ways than one, and the refusal of Secretary Burwell to waive the Medicare/Medicaid liens is just one example. First,they were inoculated with fungal toxins and toxic viable fungus. Second they suffer from CHRONIC PAIN.....and people with chronic pain are being vilified and misbranded as being the cause the drug overdose crisis. Secretary Burwell's decision is an example of how marginalized and minimized the victims of NECC have become!!!

  3. Why doesn't Secretary Burwell step in to get these medical liens settled so we can begin to put this behind us!

    1. Because it is up to the attorneys to settle the claims not her.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. She's in charge of Medicare and Medicare which is who our attorneys have been trying to get this resolved with. She had the power to waive the liens and denied the request which is why we won't see any payout anytime soon.

    4. If you think that she is actually the one that does the negotiating then that's your prerogative.