LOS ANGELES: Man With HMO Gripe Commits Suicide On Freeway
"[A] man with a gripe against HMOs parked his pickup truck on a busy freeway intersection [yesterday] afternoon, set it ablaze and then committed suicide," the Los Angeles Times reports. The man, Daniel Jones, was a hotel maintenance worker. The incident began around 3 o'clock Thursday afternoon when Jones parked his car at the intersection of two busy freeways, forcing closure of the roads and creating "a mammoth traffic tie-up." Jones called 911 "and indicated he was emotionally distraught." According to the highway patrol dispatcher Jones talked to, "He mentioned he was unhappy about HMOs." He left the truck to unfurl a banner that read: "HMOs are in it for the money!! Live Free. Love safe or die." A short while later he killed himself.
According to the Times, while "Jones was obviously agitated about HMOs shortly before his death, his Long Beach neighbors and fellow workers were not aware that he had any health problems." However, he did tell one friend that doctors last week confirmed a growth on his neck was cancer and that "Jones felt he was getting the runaround from his health insurer." And according to Jones' sister, he was HIV positive. The general manager of the hotel where Jones worked "said everyone at the hotel has health insurance, but it was not known which" plan Jones was enrolled in (Abrahamson/Corwin, 5/1). According to KCBS-Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported that Jones had had a negative experience with an HMO about 10 years ago. She said, "My brother was almost killed by an HMO. He went to an HMO complaining of a severe pain in his side and other flulike symptoms. He was sent home. His appendix burst." She added that she believed his suicide "is a direct result of him being mistreated once again" (4/30).
Consumers for Quality Care spokesperson Jamie Court "said the suicide could be a galvanizing event in the debate over how to reform the managed care industry. He said, "If this story turns out to be a tragic and legitimate story about stonewalled care at an HMO, it will translate into a new sense of urgency on the political front. This could spark a national debate about why people are driven to such madness." The Times reports that employees at several of the areas major HMOs "watched the tragedy unfold on office televisions." One HMO spokesperson said, "We're all wondering if this guy was one of our members" (5/1).