Man struggles to use health insurance after Hurricane Maria

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some victims of the Puerto Rico hurricane disaster who have left their homes and are now in the Chicago area are having insurance issues.

Even though they are U.S. citizens, their medical insurance will not cover them here on the mainland.

After living through the hurricane and its aftermath, an 80-year-old man with a variety of health problems thought coming to the United States to stay with his daughter was the right choice to make, until he tried going to a doctor.

Maria Pagan has been trying to navigate her father's health care needs ever since he evacuated to the Chicago area a few days ago. Celestino Cruz Santiago was living without water and electricity since Hurricane Maria hit the island over a month ago.

"It's a shame when you see your country in that condition," Cruz Santiago said.

Because Cruz Santiago suffers from a variety of health problems, including Parkinson's and high blood pressure, Pagan thought it was best to bring her dad here as soon as she could get a plane ticket for him. After getting an eye infection, Cruz Santiago tried to see a doctor, something Pagan assumed would be an easy process.

"Nobody would take his insurance because he is out of network. Everything is Puerto Rico and nothing is U.S., Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. That is why I thought it would be easy," she said.

Cruz Santiago is covered by Humana, one of the largest health care insurers in the U.S. Pagan says she spent hours on the phone with several different Humana representatives trying to figure how to get her father covered on the mainland.

"They didn't seem to know what to do in this situation," Pagan said.

After a few days of phones calls, Cruz Santiago was able to switch to the Illinois Humana plan, but it won't be effective until Nov. 1.

"It's just frustrating, we should be able to go anywhere and get him some help," Pagan said.

In a written response, Humana says as long as Puerto Rico's federal disaster declaration remains in effect, its Puerto Rico members can get care on the mainland from an out-of-network health care provider at in-network cost sharing. When contacting the health insurance company, ask for Humana's Puerto Rico call center.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.