Children's Hospital of Orange County assured a Chino Hills couple Thursday that their son, who has cancer, will receive potentially lifesaving surgery whether or not their insurance covers the procedure.
Unlike many cancer patients who cannot find a suitable donor for a bone-marrow transplant, 16-month-old Michael Kerr has a perfect tissue match: two of his three sisters. But standing between him and the potentially lifesaving procedure is a financial problem.
Michael was insured for lifetime benefits up to $1 million under his parents' health care plan, but that cap was reached last year after intensive chemotherapy and other treatments. The state has provided coverage since then.
State officials have refused to authorize the operation, however, basing their decision on reports stating that sibling transplants are too complicated.
CHOC oncologist Mitchell Cairo said that the surgery would have a 50% chance of saving Michael's life and that he has appealed the state's decision.
Meanwhile, Michael's parents, Raymond and Heidi Kerr, have launched a private drive to raise funds for the surgery, which could cost as much as $300,000.
And representatives of Cigna Health Care, the family's insurer, announced Thursday that the Kerrs have transferred to the company's HMO program, which has no lifetime benefits cap, and that doctors will evaluate Michael's case within three days.
Cairo said the hospital is committed to performing the surgery, which should be done by mid-July. "We will do what is required for this patient," Cairo said.
The Kerrs are still seeking donations should the insurance company fail to approve the procedure. Cairo said the money could be returned or used for other patients in need if it is not required for Michael's surgery.
Donations may be sent to Michael Kerr Trust, c/o Erin Wagner, P.O. Box 1057, Orange 92668-9968. Information: (714) 639-9545.