TD denies woman’s insurance even as she awaits bone marrow transplant

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TD Canada denies critical insurance payments to woman needing bone marrow transplant
A nurse in Whitby, Ont. is being denied critical insurance benefits from a policy she has with TD Bank even though she needs chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant – Dec 3, 2018

Bianca Williams needs chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. She’s already on a treatment regime that includes frequent blood transfusions.

But TD Bank’s insurance arm has denied her critical insurance claim, arguing her case isn’t serious enough to warrant payment — even though she explicitly bought $300,000 worth of coverage in case benefits were ever needed.

“I’ll eventually get an infection I can’t fight,” said Williams, a 29-year-old nurse in Durham, describing her two recent diagnoses that have left her weak and increasingly unable to function at work.

“We thought at least with this coverage, we’d be able to provide for our family,” said Williams, who lives with her husband and 15-month-old son in Port Perry, Ontario.

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Williams described herself as a healthy, active woman with no medical issues until late summer. Then, her life changed.

In September, she was diagnosed with two conditions: aplastic anemia, a form of bone marrow failure, as well as paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria — or PNH — which affects young adults.

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According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, PNH is a “rare, acquired life-threatening disease of the blood…characterized by a destruction of red blood cells.”

It affects only about one or two people per million in the population, according to the Johns Hopkins medical website.

Williams said her own doctors at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto regarded the conditions as extremely serious, too, adding that they wrote letters supporting this opinion.

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When Williams applied to make use of her benefits, however, TD refused to make any payments whatsoever.

In a denial letter reviewed by Global News, a TD Life Insurance Company claims specialist wrote to advise Williams that her claim didn’t meet the criteria of a “critical illness” under its policy.

“Cancer (life-threatening) means a life threatening tumour characterized by the uncontrollable growth and spread of malignant cells,” the letter read.

Neither of Williams’s conditions, however, is cancer.

When the policy was sold, the TD Bank sales representative, who also arranged the mortgage, assured Williams and her husband they’d be covered if they had a serious condition that prevented them from earning an income.

They never provided a list of any medical conditions that were included or exempt, according to the couple.

“Absolutely not,” said David Williams, Bianca’s husband.

“At the time I had [critical care] insurance through another provider. They said this was the same or better,” he said.
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When Bianca is well enough to receive a bone marrow transplant early next year, doctors have told her she likely won’t be able go back to work for a year or longer. She doesn’t qualify for short-term or long-term disability benefits through her employer.

The insurance, which costs the couple about $2,000 every year, was intended to provide for an unforeseen situation like this, they said.

Global News contacted TD Bank head office in Toronto for comment on this story. Late Monday, the company responded with a short, written statement.

“The customer asked us to review their claims decision, and our review is ongoing,” wrote Crystal Jongeward, manager of corporate and public affairs for TD Bank Group.

The couple hopes the review of the case leads to a change of position by TD Bank.

“We’re not looking for charity, for handouts,” said David, who walked in front of TD’s headquarters with a front-and-rear-facing sandwich board sign showing pictures of his family, summarizing what’s happened.

“We want my wife to get better and for TD Bank to step up and do the right thing here.”

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— With files from Tyler Thornley

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