Parents allege insurer's delay of medical flight resulted in daughter's death

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Dec 23, 2013

GALVESTON - For Francisco and Marissett Tolentino, a family vacation to the Dominican Republic ended in an "unfortunate and untimely" tragedy for which they fault their insurance company.

According to a lawsuit filed Dec. 17 in Galveston County District Court, Health Care Service Corp., doing business as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, acted too slowly to approve what would have been a lifesaving measure for the Tolentinos' daughter, Isabella.

The Tolentinos needed a medical jet to immediately transfer Isabella, who was suffering appendicitis at the time, from the resort town of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, to Miami so she could get what her parents felt was proper treatment, but the defendant secured the plane when the situation had worsened, ultimately resulting in the 6-year-old's death, the suit claims.

A Dominican hospital, which was part of the insurer's network, treated Isabella and mandated she undergo an operation, although her parents claim they "were not comfortable with the idea of subjecting their daughter to a procedure in a foreign hospital that may not meet the standards of professionalism and care of an American hospital."

Expressing a desire to have Isabella seen in the U.S., the family claims they tried to get the insurance company to sign off on the transfer.

The original petition says the Tolentinos were unsuccessful convincing the insurer to provide the service without delay, despite their pleas on "how young she was and that appendicitis is life threatening."

Shortly afterwards, Isabella's surgery was performed at Hospiten Bavaro, not too far from the resort the plaintiffs were visiting.

The suit alleges the procedure did not work and Isabella's condition worsened.
BCBS purportedly continued to delay sending Isabella to Florida. Then when it finally gave the green light to the transfer, the child had started to show signs of brain damage, according to the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit claims that physicians in Miami informed the Tolentinos that the Dominican doctors' observations of Isabella's condition were contradictory to theirs.

"Too much time had been wasted," however, for a chance to save the girl, the suit says.

According to the suit, Isabella was later pronounced dead.

Consequently, her parents seek unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

They are represented by attorney Jacob A. De Leon of the De Leon Law Firm in Houston.

Galveston County 122nd District Court Judge John Ellisor is presiding over the litigation.

Case No. 13-CV-1553

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