Federal screw-up: Brooklyn woman declared dead and loses benefits

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A woman's medication cost about $1,500 per month. So when insurance stopped picking it up she starting splitting pills, but then ran out completely. It wasn't until she suffered a life-threatening seizure that she reached out to help from 7 On Your Side.

Each day, Olivia Lopez is takes over a dozen pills, one for each of her health problems.

"I got Thyroid problems. I got heart problems. I got the seizures, high blood pressure," Lopez said.

But for the last three months, the 70-year-old mom and grandma says she hasn't taken any of her meds. Medicare stopped paying for them and she's run out. The reason? She's been declared dead.

Right there in black and white, a condolence letter from her prescription plan denying coverage.

Without insurance Olivia can't pay for her pricey medications, one prescription alone, without insurance would cost $434. Her seizure pills alone, are $300 per month.

So she's been going without and paid a scary price. She was found on the floor by a policeman in her polling place on Election Day, after suffering seizure. She wound up in the Emergency Room.

Olivia says she's visited her local Medicare office for just this problem a handful of times, since 2011.

"I go over there and tell them, 'Hey Boo, I'm alive,'" Lopez said.

So 7 On Your Side called Medicare to see if we could resuscitate her account.

In just hours, with the help of the city's Human Resources Administration, Medicare reinstated her right away.

Lopez went straight to the pharmacy to pick up all 14 of her life-saving pills.

An official at the city's Human Resources Administration says the problem was caused when the Social Security Administration mixed her with a deceased family member.

7 On Your Side found that Lopez's food stamp benefits were also terminated. But after our calls, HRA reinstated it. The agency is also reaching out to other federal and state agencies to alert them of this problem to avoid future interruption of benefits.
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