Dying WWII Veteran Was Held Hostage by Medical Alert Company Contract
On 19 September 2014, former Sphinx Club (Shriners) president and World War II veteran Basil Barna, 95, died peacefully in Waterford, Connecticut.
But before he died, he was being held hostage by a medical alert device company contract for a service that he no longer needed. The medical alert company was Life Watch USA. According to this report, the company required Mr. Barna to pay hundreds of dollars for him to get out of the service’s contract.
According to Anthony Beletsky, Barna’s personal friend, Barna served well in the Air Force and all his life, he had been working really hard. But then, the cheerful and active Barna’s health took a swift turn for the worse as his body became weaker. Before dying, he drew Beletsky’s attention and granted him power of attorney to represent him.
With the help of Beletsky’s wife, Beletsky handled Barna’s affairs and tried to cancel the Life Watch USA medical alert device and service that Barna bought way back in May.
Since Barna was staying in a nursing facility, he no longer needed the service of Life Watch USA. When Beletsky called the company, the representative who took his call informed Barna that he was in a two-year contract with the company. The contract could not be cancelled unless they paid 80 percent of the balance, which amounted to $733. Even after informing the said service provider that Barna was passing, Beletsky felt the Life Watch representative “could not care less,” leaving Beletsky in disbelief.
Shortly afterwards, a news team from Connecticut approached the company and picked up on the matter. At that point, the Life Watch spokesperson said that they could void the said contract as long as the device is sent back, which was contrary to their first claim.
Their defense is that the representative who took in Beletsky’s call was new to the company. The representative was not adept in attending to this type of call, and should have transferred the call to a supervisor. The company also stated that they generally deal with cancellations on a case-to-case basis and with this kind of situation where the customer was passing, they could have voided the contract.
Please be very careful with term service requirements whenever you sign up for a medical alert system. Some companies are easier to deal with than others. Two good companies to consider are LifeStation or Medical Guardian. These two companies do not tie users to long term contracts, and will provide refunds on prepaid months that are not used.
If you are purchasing a system and making annual prepayments, we suggest that you be vigilant about when payments become due. Most companies auto-renew for another 12 months when the time comes, but not all of them will provide a polite prorated refund if necessary.
Customers who have paid for another year in advance but only need the service for another few months into the new year’s billing cycle may not get refunded in any way, even on a prorated basis. See this post Medical Alert Annual Payments – Be Vigilant About Automatic Renewals, where the medical alert company referred their customer to a collections agency.