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City Health Commissioner Refused Treatment At Two Hospitals

May 16, 1989

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ The city’s No. 2 health official says she’s shopping for a new medical insurer after being refused hospital treatment and spending four hours to get care following a bicycle accident, a newspaper reported today.

City Health Commissioner Dian Sharma, 41, suffered a broken right arm and had five front teeth shattered after she said a car ran her off the road Friday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported today that she had to visit three hospitals for her medical emergency. One hospital turned down her insurance and another couldn’t provide the proper care.

Sharma underwent several hours of dental surgery Saturday and was scheduled for surgery on her right arm today.

Sharma’s first stop after the accident was St. John’s Mercy Hospital, where she was given a pain-killer and examined by an orthopedist, who determined the fracture needed specialized care. She was referred to St. Louis University Hospital, but when she got there after an hour’s drive, she learned that her city-paid insurance program, Group Health Plan, would not pay for treatment of her injuries.

″After about a half-hour, they said, ’We can’t see you here. Group Health Plan won’t authorize us to set your arm because you are not 65,‴ Sharma said Monday.

″I said, ‘Gee, this is the first time I ever wished I was old,’ ″ Sharma said.

Sharma’s injuries were finally treated at Deaconess Hospital, four hours after the accident.

Dr. Lawrence Lewis, director of emergency care at St. Louis University Hospital, said the complexity of new insurance rules made it difficult for patients and hospitals to know which medical care is covered and which hospitals are authorized to provide it.

If this could happen to someone ″as sophisticated in the health care system as she, this could obviously happen to anyone,″ Lawrence said. ″I don’t blame Dian Sharma for being upset.″

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