UM distance learner’s insurance denied

2013-09-26T11:00:00Z 2013-09-28T00:20:14Z UM distance learner’s insurance deniedBy SANJAY TALWANI Independent Record The Billings Gazette
September 26, 2013 11:00 am  • 

HELENA - The University of Montana requires most of its on-campus students to carry health insurance, but a Helena woman found out only after a health emergency that the coverage offered through the university is not meant for those who attend classes only online, according to a lawsuit.

Maria Cantwell-Frank claims Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana (now Caring for Montanans Inc.) misrepresented the coverage she purchased and then blamed the situation on the university.

According to her complaint, filed in District Court in Helena Aug. 23, Cantwell-Franks enrolled in online classes in fall 2011, bought the coverage and received an insurance card and a welcome letter.

That October, she sought care in a hospital emergency room, according to her suit.

But later, she received a letter saying she had no insurance, she claims.

“Without her knowledge, Caring has rescinded her coverage because she was taking classes online. It claimed that coverage was only meant to cover students on campus,” the complaint says. “When Ms. Cantwell-Frank challenged whether Caring could do this, the insurer simply blamed it on the University and denied coverage.”

Students taking six or more credits at the university are required to carry insurance, but online-only (“distance”) students are not eligible for the student insurance plan, according to university publications.

The University of Montana is not a defendant in the lawsuit, which claims breach of contract and unfair trade practices by the insurer. Lucy France, an attorney for the university, said the insurance policy has not changed since the time of the incident in question.

Attorneys Scott Peterson, representing Cantwell-Frank, and Michael McMahon, representing Caring for Montanans, both declined comment.

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