It’s something every parent fears: Their child has a life-threatening or chronic disease, and in addition to the stress of treatment, they often also face crushing medical bills.
But for many of those families, there is a program to help them deal with out-of-pocket costs not covered by their insurance plan.
The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation recently awarded its 25,000th grant. It went to an Arizona family, to help cover their young daughter’s treatment for a congenital heart condition.
Scott Otto, assistant executive director for the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation, said they began the program when it became clear there was a critical need to support families dealing with a health crisis.
“Think of a child who is experiencing some level of need for health care,” Otto explained. “Could be something big, a cardiac event; could be something small, like ongoing asthma medication, but that cost of health care may not be picked up fully by their commercial insurance, and that oftentimes can lead to some level of hardship for a family.”
Otto noted the fund has provided more than $54 million in medical grants since 2007 to help pay for children’s medical expenses.
The Arizona grant went to the family of Ella, a 9-year-old born with only half a functioning heart who faces a lifetime of treatment, surgery and hospital stays.
Melissa Beckstead, her mother, said the grant goes a long way toward easing the family’s burden.
“It’s hard to understand unless you’ve been in this, unless you know what medical bills cost when you have a child with a life-threatening condition that never goes away,” Beckstead remarked. “Every little bit makes normal everyday life a little bit easier.”
Otto pointed out the fund awards grants of several hundred up to $5,000 per year, with a $10,000 lifetime maximum. He added the approval rate is about 90% for applicants who meet the program’s criteria.
“We’re looking for that family that may not be accustomed to asking for assistance,” Otto stressed. “There are families that certainly are reliant on government programs, and we’re glad that they can get connected. But think of that next family up who may not be used to asking for help. They were making all the right decisions, but hardship comes along, and they just need that sense of a hand up. That’s where we step in.”
Families do not need to have insurance through UnitedHealthcare to be eligible.