Citizen Bo 111 ESUS CHRIST is a personal friend of mine,” Bo Pilgrim told a crowd of about 300 people attending a God-andCountry-type rally sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Pittsburg. The June 29 spectacular honored Mike Huckaby, the Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas and an ordained Southern Baptist minister, who was to address the congregation that evening. A huge American flag provided the backdrop for Pilgrim, and a U.S. Air Force color guard provided the pomp and circumstance. Dinner on the grounds was also furnished for the crowd of “deep-water” Bap, tists, as they like to refer to themselves. Religious music was mixed with patriotic songs, from “Amazing Grace” to “America the Beautiful.” Pilgrim is active in Republican politics and now is working on George W. “Junior” Bush’s campaign for governor. Other Republican candidates at the rally included Dr. Mike Blankenship, a kidney specialist from Texarkana who is challenging incumbent Sulphur Springs Democrat Jim Chapman for the First Congressional District seat in November. All in all, it was a very American picture, like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. While Pilgrim was pontificating to the crowd of “deep-water” Baptists, some folks in town were telling reporters their favorite Pilgrim story. Some recalled the time Pilgrim was caught handing out $10,000 checks to state senators on the Senate floor two days before they were to vote on workers’ compensation reforms he was backing. Although some said they looked like bribes, Pilgrim called the checks campaign contributions, and they were legal, although some embarrassed senators later returned the money after the newspapers found out about the payments. The Legislature in 1991 made it il legal to give or take campaign contributions in the state Capitol or state legislative and executive offices. One woman, laughing so hard tears were streaming down her face, told about the time Pilgrim wanted to remove a house near the feed mill, which was smack in the middle of town. He delegated this duty to his youngest son, Pat. “Pat takes it upon himself to buy dynamite, places it in the house, and blows it up. Blows it up! It knocked the electricity out down town,” she said “Can you imagine going and buying dynamite and just blowmg something up?” Other folks just wanted to talk about Pilgrim’s mansion, Chateau de Pilgrim, or Cluckinghatn Palace, as locals like to call it, which sits just south of town, practically on the road. Right after it was built, a woman said, Pilgrim was giving tours of the house. “They made up this description sheet for you to have when you tour,” a woman said. “It states that in the garden area there would be a bronze statue of Pilgrim. On the shoulder would be a replica of Bo’s grandfather.” On the shoulder? Like a parrot? Everyone seems to agree that Bo Pilgrim certainly worked hard to become successful. And what’s good for Bo is good for Pittsburg, they say. “Bo’s a Deep-Water Baptist,” someone explains. “There are ankle-deeps, who aren’t very committed; knee-deeps, deep enough to make waves, but still close to the shore worldly things; waist-deeps, which make up the majority of your congregations, the church couldn’t survive without them; and deep-waters, they get in and do everything for the church. Bo’s one of them.” “Yeah,” a woman points out. “But I guess no one told him that deep . water and chicken fat don’t mix.” C.C. ton-based orthopedic surgeon. Hinkley agreed with Arrondo and Race that Martinez did indeed suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Hinkley’s report stated: “To deny her a carpal tunnel release at this time is to guarantee further nerve damage…If my understanding of the patient is correct, the level of resistance to this procedure is criminal in its degree of neglect for her well being.” Arrondo called the insurance company back after receiving Hinkley’s report and again was told that Green’s report stood, as did the MMI and zero-percent disability. And that was final. “The insurance companies will make you fight tooth and nail to get these approvals,” said Cerullo. “And that’s where the length of time begins. So now you have patients where care is being aborted that are forced to wait in pain in order to fight the battles over why these tests are medically necessary.” Arrondo helped Martinez secure another benefit review conference from TWCC. On January 21, 1994nearly two years after the initial injuryMartinez attended the conference. She walked into the hearing room, alone, speaking no English, represented by no one. Seated across the table from her she saw the hearing officer, Charlie Way from the TWCC office in Tyler, two supervisors from Pilgrim’s Pride, a representative from the insurance company, an interpreter, and an ombudsman from TWCC who was not a lawyer and could not give Martinez legal advice. “They wouldn’t listen to what I had to say,” Martinez said. The result of the con= ference was that the insurance company and Pilgrim’s Pride would agree that there was a compensable injury, only if Martinez would agree to take no temporary income benefits and would consent that she had reached maximum medical improvement as of August 19, 1993the date Green initially saw her and gave her a zero-percent disability rating. The insurance company would agree to a 6-percent whole-body impairment, but for further medical treatment, Martinez would have to agree to see another physician in Winnsboro instead of Arrondo, and the carrier would agree to pay only outstanding medical bills submitted by Race and any medical testing ordered by Race prior to January 21, 1994. “All this time they said she had no problem,” Arrondo said in disgust. “They finally said, okay, she had a problem of 6 percent, [the insurance] carrier will pay for treatments, but not any temporary income benefits. She lost all the time she was off. It states the date of MMI as August 19, 1993. What that means is she cannot improve anymore. She has not had her surgery yet. She has not had anybody look at her since I was forced to stop seeing her. She has impaired discs in her back, carpal tunnel. She’s in a lot of pain, but she hasn’t been able to get any medication. Winnsboro is over 30 miles from where she lives. She doesn’t have any way of getting there, has to have someone drive her. “The thing is, I’m her treating doctor, and they now assigned [another doctor] as her treating physicianbecause the insurance company doesn’t want her to see me. Carrier agrees to pay only outstanding medical bills submitted by Dr. Racethe doctor I referred her to for a second opinion. They will pay Dr. Race, but they won’t pay me.” Arrondo said that although the TWCC was negotiating deals to deny payment of his bills, the agency didn’t make him aware of it. “I had to find out about it from the patients,” he said.. “If they had not come back, I would not have known.” This was not the first time the insurance company, with the apparent complicity of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission, had negotiated away Arrondo’s rights to compensation. In at least three other cases, the state agency negotiated agreements stipulating that the insurance company and Pilgrim’s would agree that there was an injuryonly if the patient would no longer see Arrondo, according to confidential benefits-review reports obtained by the Observer. The physician believes this was a form of retaliation for his attempts to improve conditions in the workplace and for injured employees. “Pilgrim’s doesn’t want any workers’ comp claims filed. Period,” said Cunning THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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