NOTE: I am astounded by the number of patients, family members, and past employees of Passages who continue to reach out to me with their own personal stories. Thank you all so much for your condolences, support, and suggestions. However, due to my family’s resolution of the issue, I am no longer seeking advice, and am therefore closing comments on this post. To find out what happened with this whole mess, please see my follow-up post, “Love, Closure, and What It Feels Like to Give Up.” I wish you all healing, love, and progress with your own personal closure. Thank you.
This is a cry for help.
There is no way to keep the emotion out of this blog post. My hands are already trembling, even as I’m thinking, “Don’t make it too long or you’ll lose people.” But the only way to ‘summarize’ something that’s incredibly, deeply painful is to do so brutally. Here’s the black and white of it, *as best I can manage:
In February of 2008, my brother and I sent our alcoholic father to a fancy, expensive rehab center in California. Passages Malibu was not a decision we came upon lightly. And I hate to talk money, because money is not what it’s about, but money is what it came to, so I’m not going to shy away from it. My dad was wealthy. We were able to afford this using his money. His disease had gotten so severe that I knew he was going to die soon. I even have a letter I sent him saying so – an eerie foreshadowing that the deepest part of my heart already knew. I even listed killing himself as one of the things I feared. And I was right. My dad committed suicide. But I’ll get to that later.
What I’m trying to say is this: my brother and I were out of hope. We were desperate. We were losing more and more of Dad every day, and we’d tried everything. Seriously, everything we could think of. He’d been in and out of multiple rehab programs in Texas. In-patient, out-patient. Doctors, hospitals. Jail. We’d tried moving in and babying him. Moving out and letting him “learn the hard way.” I mean we tried everything. At least I will always have that. That and the fact that through it all, even the darkest moments of our lives, we bathed him with love. Unconditionally.
In the midst of this despair, we came across something different. Something that wasn’t 12-step. I mean, 12-step hadn’t worked for years, so the fact that this new program hinged on a different foundation seemed promising. We read The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure by Chris Prentiss. It seemed like The Answer. It seemed like a brilliant light on dark seas. It seemed like the only chance we had left to save him.
I knew it was risky. Although Passages boasted an 85% “cure rate” while most rehabs have an 85% relapse rate, that still left the potential that Dad could be in the other 15%. And it was out of state, which made me sad to think of – not seeing him at all for a full month. Plus it was ridiculously expensive. Including the $5,000 intervention fee, we paid over $72,000. Yes, you read that right. Seventy-two THOUSAND dollars. It seems extreme, but the way we saw it: Dad had the money. He was dying. He couldn’t use the money if he was dead. What else was he saving it for? So we could inherit it when he died? We’d rather have him. So we paid. I took out a loan just to cover the reservation.**
After the intervention, Dad checked into Passages on February 24, 2008. He was released with a clean bill of (physical and mental) health on March 28, 2008.
He drank the day he got home.
He was worse than ever. He stopped going to work. He got in a car accident (didn’t hurt anyone, thank God) in May and was sent to jail for 2 ½ weeks. He “retired” from his job of 24 years, which he loved. When he got out of jail, a forced 18 days sober, he sounded staggering drunk. I believe he had developed Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, better known as “wet brain” disease – but we will never know for sure. I knew, though, that he would not get better this time.
But you can never truly give up on someone you love. We scheduled him for another rehab center – this time a 12-step in-patient facility in Texas. He was signed up to go in on June 19, 2008. On June 18, he shot himself in the head.
I’m skipping it. All of it. The grief, the pain, the emotional trauma. The will, the readying and selling of his house – my childhood home. The life insurance, the inheritance, the splitting and selling of his things. His clothes. His truck. I’m skipping everything, because that’s not what this blog is about.
This blog is about Passages Malibu and Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance. I feel that we were scammed by the first and wronged by the second.
It is hard for me to believe that it has been almost four years since Passages and we still have not received a dime of our insurance money for Dad’s treatment. But there are two issues at play here, and I will try not to confuse the two.
1) Blue Cross will not cover the portion of Dad’s treatment that I believe they should cover. In fact, they won’t cover any of it. The rejected our claim (after dicking us around for years). And I quote, “At the time, there was no indication you had such severe symptoms of withdrawal, co-morbid disease, or other impairments that you required a monitored setting to treat your substance use disorder. You did not have a severe medical disorder for which you needed constant supervision while you received treatment for your addiction.”
Three general physicians with constant (failed) treatment, a psychologist, three emergency hospital trips, and countless attempts at both in- and out-patient rehab clinics apparently doesn’t cut it. They just don’t want to pay. And the real kicker? I don’t think they would have treated my dad like this. I think they’re taking advantage of the fact that my brother and I are young and we don’t know what to do. If Dad were here, this would be over by now.
2) Passages did nothing to help my dad. After dad got out and drank, one of my family members called them about his relapse. Their response was that Dad had been, “beyond help” when he got to Passages.
Beyond help? Beyond help? Then why did you take his $68,000 dollars? Because they wanted the money, is all I can see. They knew they couldn’t help him, but they admitted him anyway. And when he wasn’t better at the end of 30 days, instead of holding him longer or suggesting further care, they let him go and said he was fine. They released him knowing he was still ill. He needed help, and they didn’t care enough to give it. And now he’s dead.
How is that not a scam? At the very least, it is a despicable level of neglect.
So what is my point? Why am I writing this? It has been indescribably painful to type this up, and I’m sure it will be even harder to post for the world to see.
I need your help. I can’t do this alone. My brother and I are hurt, exhausted, and quite frankly, scared. I’m afraid of messing something up and getting caught in legal technicalities. I’m afraid to go to a lawyer because I’m afraid we’ll just get taken advantage of again. I need advice. Please, tell me what to do.
Here’s what I’m asking:
Of Passages: We want a full refund and an apology. We want to be treated with respect. And we want you to stop taking advantage of families of people you know you can’t help.
Of Blue Cross: We want the rightful percentage of coverage for our father’s treatment. We want responses that don’t try to drown us in jargon. And we want to stop be transferred to empty departments and getting “called right back” months later.
Of you- my family, friends, readers, and strangers: I need advice. I need suggestions, trust-worthy resources to go to, and help. I feel like I’m totally alone and fighting a useless battle. It’s only partially about the money. We’ve always lived humbly and I’m perfectly happy that way. I have no problem paying my dues.
It’s mostly about the principle, as cliché as it sounds. It’s unfair to allow these huge companies to get away with ripping us off royally just because we’re two young adults with no idea what to do. It’s not right. And as silly as it may sound, they’ve hurt my feelings. I do everything in my life with integrity, honesty, and trust. The fact that anyone else wouldn’t – even big companies like these – seems like a personal insult. They need to make it right. And I’m going to do everything I can to make them make it right. And to prevent others from falling into the trap that we’ve fallen into. But I need your help.
What should I do?
Thank you all for your love, support, suggestions, and time. And I’m sorry to my family for bringing up painful memories. You guys have been so wonderful.
Here’s hoping that your holidays are happier than mine.
*This blog post is the truth as I have experienced it. To the best of my knowledge, everything is accurate, but it is all from my point of view.
**I should mention that we did do our research before we jumped into Passages with both feet. We read reviews, searched the web, checked them on rehab lists, and confirmed their Better Business Bureau status. They were hard to find as they are under “Grasshopper House, LLC,” but once we did we found that they have no complaints against them since their joining in 2002 – and still don’t.
I have intended all along to file a formal BBB complaint against them, but was afraid of running into the “spit in your food” phenomenon (shooting myself in the foot). I think it’s time though, seeing as nothing is happening anyway. Would we have done something differently if we’d seen a complaint like this when we searched? I don’t know. But you can bet that I’m going to file one.Share this: