A transgender doctor in Louisiana has spent her life savings to keep her clinic open after her name change led three insurance companies to refuse reimbursements to her.
The insurers that refused have agreed to now pay what they owe Dr. Tiffany Najberg, but she has yet to receive the funds, she told NBC News.
Najberg, who runs UrgentEMS in Shreveport, legally changed her name in April 2021 and updated the records that insurers needed. There was no problem with Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield, or United, but Aetna, Cigna, and Humana rejected her claims and did not reimburse her, she said.
“They were flagging each claim and rejecting it because of a name incompatibility with their internal database. They did not change my deadname,” she told NBC. They said they use a different database than the other insurers, but they would not tell her what it was, and they didn’t update her name even after she sent in a copy of the court order granting the change, she said.
She then began posting videos to TikTok and started a Change.org petition. She’s gone through her $200,000 in life savings to continue providing both primary and urgent care to her patients, including about 100 trans people. Some of her trans patients come from Alabama and Tennessee, both of which have enacted restrictions on gender-affirming care for minors (most of the provisions of Alabama’s law are temporarily blocked while a lawsuit proceeds).
Her situation attracted the attention of local media and then NBC. Aetna, Cigna, and Humana have now reached agreements with her, but two of the three did so only after contacted by NBC, said English Perez, a medical consultant who has been assisting Najberg.
“We can’t relax and breathe until those checks start coming in the door,” Perez told the network. She said she hasn’t seen another situation like Najberg’s.
Najberg said she hasn’t turned away any patients because of her financial troubles, but she has had to resort to crowdfunding and has had to cut some expenses, including her own health insurance. She has put plans to expand into telehealth in neighboring states on hold, and she fears that she could lose her business and home if she doesn’t start getting the insurance checks soon.
“I am literally in survival mode right now,” she told NBC.