'Lack of empathy is an institutional problem': Patient who appealed $40K bill criticizes Anthem in 2nd viral TikTok

An Anthem Blue Cross member has gone viral on TikTok again after the payer reversed course on a $40,000 cancer treatment bill, the Wednesday Journal reported Nov. 21.

A second video from Aaron McManus, who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer earlier this year and had surgery to remove a kidney tumor, has garnered over 900,000 views as of Nov. 22. 

The Oak Park, Ill.-resident first posted a video to TikTok Sept. 8 titled "Anthem refused to pay for my cancer surgery while making billions in profit" when the first appeal of the bill was denied. 

In the video, McManus, who uses they/them pronouns, said they wanted to hear from Gail Boudreaux, CEO of Anthem's parent company Elevance Health, about what she was doing to fix coverage denials. 

After the first video, McManus received a call from Anthem Blue Cross. The company said it had received hundreds of calls about McManus' case. The payer then reversed course on the $40,000 bill, determining McManus owed just $61 in copays. 

Upset by Anthem's response, which did not include an apology or the reason why the original appeal was denied, McManus posted the second video to their TikTok Oct. 22, calling Anthem Blue Cross "impossible to work with." 

Anthem Blue Cross told CBS Chicago and other news outlets the $40,000 bill was due to incorrect information from McManus' providers. 

"The lack of compassion, the lack of empathy, is an institutional problem. This is where people get upset about a for-profit healthcare system," McManus said in the video. "Because it engineers itself into the cheapest possible profit-seeking behavior." 

"I feel like I'm being treated like a customer who's complaining because I didn't get enough ketchup on my hamburger," McManus told the Wednesday Journal. "It's actually like, literally, my life and death in the balance here." 

Representatives for Anthem Blue Cross apologized to McManus in a statement to the Wednesday Journal. 

"We're sorry this caused stress in an already stressful time, and our care team continues to be in contact and work closely with Mr. McManus to guide him and help ensure he has access to the care, information and answers he needs," the payer told the outlet. 

McManus is continuing to share their story on the platform. Last week, they posted a video of their interview with CBS Chicago. 

"I still can't believe we have to use TikTok to get insurance to do its job," McManus captioned the video. "We need universal healthcare now."

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