ORANGE (CBSLA.com) — A Los Alamitos family is fighting obstacles from its medical insurer as it tries to get a bone-marrow transplant for its 9-month-old son.
Sharon Beal has been standing by her son, Ethan’s, crib as he undergoes two rounds of chemotherapy to treat a rare form of blood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
“The average human will have 4,000-17,000 white blood cells in a blood draw. And he had 649,000 when we found out he had leukemia,” Beal said.
Doctors say little Ethan is putting up a fight but that doesn’t mean he’s in the clear. They say he’ll likely need a bone-marrow transplant. His prognosis for survival depends on the leukemia being treated.
The family’s health care provider, Loomis Insurance, has denied medical coverage to search for a marrow donor, arguing more tests are needed.
Meanwhile, Ethan’s parents are nervous that the clock is ticking, especially considering it typically takes at least three months to find a donor.
“Because we have such a small window of time, we need to get the donor ready ahead of time, get everything lined up, so when it’s time for transplant, we can act quickly,” Beal said.
Ethan’s oncologist Steven Neudorf says the baby will undergo another round of chemotherapy in two weeks.
“I think they’re denying it because it’s still a little early in the process to say that he absolutely needs the transplant,” Neudorf said.
Beal says Loomis also denied coverage for the baby’s high blood pressure medication unless it came in tablet form.
“We see them denying things that make us sometimes scratch our heads and wonder what’s going on there,” the oncologist said.
A Loomis representative wouldn’t comment, citing HIPAA confidentiality laws.
It’s not 100 percent certain Ethan needs a bone marrow transplant but if his condition deteriorates Neudorf says he’ll take the issue up with Loomis and make a case for the transplant. The oncologist says the procedure has a 50 percent success rate.