Action 9 helps family after insurance denial

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ORLANDO,Fla. —

A Melbourne man called Action 9 after an insurance company denied him coverage after doctors found he had stage 4 cancer.

Skip Stearn said he was counting on the disability insurance as his family's only income.

Stearn's battle with stage 4 lung cancer is rough enough, but he and his wife Jill never expected a fight with the insurance company, too.

"I don't know how they can sleep at night. It's wrong," said Jill Stearn.

Skip Stearn had a short-term disability policy with Mutual of Omaha. The illness forced him to stay home so their only income was his disability insurance. But the Stearns said the company withheld benefits because his cancer could have been a pre-existing condition.

"It's not a hand out, it's something paid for and they were going to give him grief," said Jill Stearn.

For several weeks, the Stearns said they kept sending test results and doctor reports proving the cancer was not pre-existing.

"It was insane, and you'd call them back and they'll say we didn't get this or we didn't get that," said Skip Stearn.

On consumer affair complaint sites, many customers claim Mutual of Omaha delayed or denied payments for invalid reasons. Attorneys who specialize in disability claims said denials are very common since employer-backed policies are so difficult to appeal.

"I'm not surprised they deny claims because the way the law is written. I'm surprised when they pay the claims," said attorney Mark Nation.

Running out of money to pay for gas and food, the Stearns called Action 9 and we contacted Mutual of Omaha. A week later their disability payment was approved.

"I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't know if they would have done anything or not," said Jill Stearn.

Mutual of Omaha declined to comment, telling Action 9's Todd Ulrich it deals with individual customers who have issues.

Experts said you need to overwhelm the insurance company with medical evidence to overcome denials.