Blue Cross ends double cross for woman in coma | Stu Bykofsky

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Christmas 2017 photo of the Flannery family (from left): James, Alicia, George, Jim

In his words, Jim Flannery’s life “changed forever” two months ago, on Super Bowl Sunday.

He and his wife, Alicia, were attending a viewing party at a friend’s house. At one point while Jim was watching the game, Alicia fell down a flight of stairs, landing hard.

His heart pounding, Jim rushed to Alicia, who was in a pool of blood.

He comforted her while someone called 911. EMTs arrived in minutes, Jim thinks. “I’m not really sure how long it took,” he tells me. “I was in a state of shock.”

The shock would get worse. Alicia, 42, had sustained a traumatic brain injury and was put into a medically induced coma at Abington Hospital. Two weeks later, Jim says, Alicia suffered a stroke.

Abington Hospital stabilized Alicia but is not equipped for rehabilitation, which is what she desperately needs.

Camera icon Courtesy of Jim Flannery
Jim Flannery visits his wife, Alicia, in her hospital room.

“The hospital position is that she should be moved to another facility for rehabilitation,” says Nicole Lobbenberg, an Abington Hospital social worker who’s working with the Flannery family.

That was not the position of the health insurance company that repeatedly rejected Jim’s attempts to get his wife into rehab, such as that available at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown.

His insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, turned him down twice, acting as a roadblock.

It rejected him twice more when he asked to get Alicia into the less expensive Fox Subacute at Clara Burke in Plymouth Meeting.

Jim is insured by Blue Cross in Illinois because his company is headquartered in Chicago. Jim, 44, is a sales rep for major accounts with a tax and accounting publishing company. He has been out of work for two months since Alicia’s accident but must return soon.

Alicia is a recruiter for a pharmaceutical company in Souderton. Jim and Alicia live in Hatfield with their two sons, James, 12, and George, 8.

These two months have been traumatic for the young brothers. “Emotionally devastating,” says the father. “We had a conversation last night about how George sneaks into the bathroom at school to wipe away tears.”

Jim admits he has “no idea how this is going to work out,” as he is unexpectedly thrust into the role of a single parent while his wife is incapacitated.

A clinical nurse liaison at Good Shepherd who was not authorized to give her name tells me Blue Cross said it saw no “medical necessity” for rehab, even though a Good Shepherd brain specialist said the opposite. “It’s pretty bizarre,” the nurse says.

Furious that his wife remains in a coma without proper treatment, Jim posted a petition on change.org.

The nurse at Good Shepherd says Alicia is not getting better at Abington Hospital. “The next step is rehab somewhere” to give Alicia a chance, says the nurse.

Tuesday afternoon, I contacted Blue Cross with a list of questions. Spokeswoman Colleen Miller got back to me saying she could not answer my questions because of privacy issues.

But Jim Flannery can: Blue Cross informed him Wednesday that it had reversed course. It will approve rehab at Good Shepherd for Alicia, giving her a fighting chance.

Which is all her husband wanted in the first place.