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HMO reinstates pregnant woman

The pregnant New Port Richey woman who was dropped by her health maintenance organization after being late on a monthly bill was reinstated Monday, according to the state Department of Insurance.

Gina Hunter, 40, whose plight the Times chronicled in a story Saturday, expressed relief at the development, which means she will have coverage in 1{ months when her third child is born.

"I'm glad that it's all over with," said Hunter, who has fired off weekly volleys of calls to reporters and health care officials since April 17, when she got notice from Physicians Healthcare Plans Inc. that she had been dropped.

"I just hope that anybody that gets in a situation like this will fight back instead of lying down and taking it."

The HMO dropped her after she failed to get her April 1 payment in on time, contending it was within its legal and contractual bounds to do so.

The Department of Insurance, however, jumped to Hunter's aid. Dan McLaughlin, the department's press secretary, said flexibility ought to trump unwavering allegiance to "dusty statutes."

McLaughlin said the HMO contacted the department Monday with the news that Hunter had been reinstated. He hailed it as a victory for the "little guy" against "bureaucracies and corporate cultures."

"I was told that in their opinion they're making an exception (in Hunter's case)," McLaughlin said. "Of course, that can't always be the rule. But in this particular case, I guess they determined the facts warranted making that exception."

The HMO could not be reached for comment.