Mauled marine faces health care calamity

Seven On Your Side
August 13, 2010 8:33:57 PM PDT
It's a consumer problem we're seeing more and more frequently; health insurance companies denying coverage saying they won't pay for emergency treatment that could possibly saves lives. In this case, it took Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side to help a former Marine battle his health insurance company. Paul Van Riper's had to re-learn everything. From tying his shoes to picking up a glass of water.

"I move on with my life and I'll do what I have to do to make it work," said the Wallkill native.

Last labor day while breaking up a fight between his terrier and his bulldog, Caesar. The ex-Marine got mauled. "My hand went into Caesar's mouth and he just wouldn't let go of it."

During the bitter, 5 minute struggle, the bulldog ripped off the tip of his right ring finger and both his thumbs.

"All he kept saying was 'I think I'm going to pass out,' recounted Paul's wife, Lori Van Riper. "And all I kept saying was, 'Stay with me babe, just stay with me.'"

In just minutes, Paul lost a lot of blood. EMT's ordered an air ambulance, since the closest level 1 trauma center was a 75 minute drive away.

"I thought that if I continue bleeding the way I was, I knew that I would eventually pass out and I think I might not be here today," recounted Paul.

The chopper made the hospital in just 21 minutes. Doctor's stopped the bleeding and re-attached one of his thumbs. But they couldn't save the left one. But now, months later, another body blow.

"I thought they were crazy," said Paul.

His insurance company, MVP Health Care from Schenectady, refused to pay for the air ambulance, stating it wasn't "medically necessary."

That meant the Van Ripers had to pay the whole bill, $18,379.

"We don't have that kind of money," said Lori.

So the Van Ripers appealed MVP Health Care's decision 2 times.

"They just downright denied payment and there was nothing I could do to change their minds," said Paul.

So 7 On Your Side appealed. And this time? MVP Health Care approved coverage and paid the whole $18,379 bill.

"You did a helluva job. You make them open their eyes up and actually see you weren't going to back down," said Paul.

MVP Health Care told us they reconsidered their initial decision because they didn't know the incident happened over the Labor Day weekend. They said heavy holiday traffic would've made the hospital trip by ambulance too long.

Story by: Nina Pineda

Produced by: Steve Livingstone CONNECT WITH NINA PINEDA AND 7 ON YOUR SIDE