PRESCOTT, Ariz. (CN) - A Hopi Indian with a rare blood disease claims in court that the Indian Health Service's delays threatened her life and saddled her with nearly $400,000 in debt for medications she needs to live.
Cecilia Shortman, a resident of the Hopi reservation in northeast Arizona, claims in Federal Court that Indian Health Service (IHS) sat on her request for coverage from July to September 2012.
Without insurance, the medication Shortman needs to treat her congenital blood disease costs $128,880 per month, she says.
The IHS processed her claim only after the Obama administration stepped in after several life-threatening months of delay, she claims.
"On September 27, 2012, Cecilia decided to try a last ditch effort to contact the staff within President Barak Obama's administration for help," the complaint states.
"Representatives from the White House contacted IHS on September 27, 2012 to address Cecilia's plea for medicine.
"That same day, IHS completed the eligibility review process and determined that Cecilia was in fact eligible for the medicine that she needed to keep her rare blood disorder in check."
Meanwhile, the Hopi Grant School and Walgreens had advanced Shortman the cost of the medication for three months. Now she's $386,640 in debt.
"IHS failed to make a timely decision with regard to Cecilia's medical treatment in part because IHS was concerned about the cost of the medicine she needed," Shortman says. "IHS has never provided any written explanation of Cecilia's eligibility determination, any explanation of the scope of the approval, any explanation of her appeal rights, or any explanation of the delay in approving her Medicine."
Walgreens and the school have "agreed to postpone but not forgive collection efforts against Cecilia to repay the advances they made, pending her efforts to secure reimbursement from IHS," Shortman says.
IHS has failed to respond to any of her requests.
"Cecilia asserts IHS was negligent in the processing of her application for care, and that the delays caused by that negligence forced Cecilia into a choice between death or massive personal debt of $386,640.00 to secure the medicine she needed to survive," the complaint states.
Shortman sued IHS Acting Director Yvette Roubideaux and others, alleging negligence, breach of trust and unjust enrichment. She seeks damages equal to her debt and a "declaration regarding Cecilia's current and future rights to IHS benefits for the medicine and care at issue."
She is represented by Robert Yoder of Yoder & Langford in Phoenix.