Hooper woman's quest for health coverage takes southward turn

Sunday , July 30, 2017 - 5:00 AM5 comments

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

HOOPER — Once again, Nicky Stauffer finds herself searching for health care coverage in her fight against breast cancer, underscoring the difficulties many face in finding affordable care.

“It’s just ridiculous, the ring-around-the-rosie they put us through,” said her husband, Corey Stauffer. “It’s just crazy.”

Corey Stauffer is a self-employed plumber, and not getting employer-provided coverage and unable to afford insurance offered through the Obamacare exchange, the family has gone without. Then earlier this year, Nicky discovered a cancerous lump in her breast, necessitating surgery and forcing the family to scramble for assistance.

RELATED: Hooper woman fights for cancer treatment, underscores plight of uninsured

Officials from Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for kids, the needy and others, initially denied the woman’s request for coverage, stemming in part, apparently, from her status as a legal permanent resident. Originally from England, the woman — mother of two young boys and stepmom to two of her husband’s kids from an earlier marriage — first came to the United States as a girl, brought by her American stepdad.

Then, as they worried how they’d cover the cost of radiation and Nicky Stauffer’s long-term prognosis, they received preliminary word last week that the woman qualified for Medicaid after all, prompting sighs of relief. They had paid for her initial treatment last March out of pocket, with help from family.

RELATED: Hooper woman fighting cancer gets good news — she can tap Medicaid after all

However, the respite was short-lived. In another twist, Corey Stauffer said the family received a letter Thursday from health care officials saying his wife doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, that she needs to submit more documentation. It’s got the family worried and frustrated, highlighting the idiosyncrasies of the country’s financially strained health system and the complicated, roller-coaster battle many face in getting medical treatment.

“What is that about? I don’t even understand the policy behind it,” Corey Stauffer said. Among other things, officials seek documentation attesting to Nicky Stauffer’s years in college in England, he said, and work records from when she lived in Washington several years ago.

The woman spent Thursday on the phone with officials trying to sort things out, while her husband wonders if the new requirements are a means of weeding out potential Medicaid recipients. “I think they do all that so people give up,” he said.

Meantime, officials from Davis Hospital in Layton, where Nicky Stauffer has been receiving treatment, said they will keep up the radiation regimen, to last a total of five weeks. But it’s not clear how the cost will be covered and whether she’ll be able to get a hysterectomy, which doctors say she needs to help prevent the possible recurrence of breast cancer.

Obamacare, more formally known as the Affordable Care Act, was designed to expand coverage to more people and it’s done that, to a degree. But it’s also come under fire from many GOP lawmakers, who think it’s too expensive and an overreach of federal power.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate this week debated repealing and replacing Obamacare, but the efforts fizzled, with none of the proposals put forward for debate receiving enough support. The situation leaves Corey Stauffer with a bad taste in his mouth.

“I think they should get rid of Medicaid and give us affordable insurance for everyone,” he said, with everyone paying according to their means.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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