Family impacted by medical debt finds support from Labcorp partnership with the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation
A partnership with the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF)
Healthcare-related debt is an all-too-common barrier to equitable healthcare—one that the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) strives to break. Since 2007, UHCCF has awarded 30,000 grants valued at $62.2 million to children and their families across the U.S. for medical expenses not covered, or not fully covered, by a family’s commercial health insurance.
For the last decade, Labcorp has supported UHCCF’s mission through a variety of sponsorships and fundraising events, both local and national, making it the single largest partner of the Foundation in the diagnostics industry.
Jon Hassler, a senior policy and payer relations analyst at Labcorp, has seen the impact that this partnership, and the support that UHCCF lends, can have on families—including his own.
An unexpected diagnosis
When Jon’s daughter, Anna Kate, was born, she came into the world with a mysterious, large patch on the side of her head. The patch turned out to be a congenital nevus, a pigmented birthmark that occurs in approximately 1% to 2% of the population.1
While most congenital nevi usually don’t cause health issues, a small percentage may develop into skin cancer later in life1—a chance that Jon and his family did not want to take. Plus, as Anna Kate grew from a newborn to a toddler, she’d started having seizures every couple of months (a possible symptom of certain types of congenital nevi).2
“Obviously, we were wondering what was causing all of this,” explained Jon. After weighing their options, he said they ultimately decided to remove the congenital nevus when Anna Kate was around 2 years old.
However, in order to remove the nevus, the procedure required the use of saline expanders to stretch out Anna Kate’s skin first. “For about two or three months, her head was just growing,” explained Jon. “She had to go to the doctor once a week to get the saline pumped in to stretch her skin. It was pretty painful.”
Between the doctor visits for the saline expanders and the surgery to remove the congenital nevus, “the whole process was very expensive,” said Jon. Although some of the costs for the treatment were covered by the family's health insurance, there were still significant costs the family would have to pay themselves.
To help cover some of the costs, Jon and his family applied for a medical grant from UHCCF. “We originally found out about UHCCF from somebody in our church who works for UnitedHealthcare,” shared Jon. “They knew a little bit about the Foundation and walked us through the application process.”
Though Jon and his family expected to have to “jump through tons of hoops” to get approved for a grant, they were pleasantly surprised by how few barriers there were in the process and how supported they felt by UHCCF along the way.
“Whether it’s a surgery like Anna Kate’s, or even a medical device like cochlear implants for your child, UHCCF can really help people,” said Jon.
- Since 2007, UHCCF has awarded 30,000 grants valued at $62.2 million to children and their families across the U.S.
- Labcorp is the single largest partner of UHCCF in the diagnostics industry, supporting the Foundation’s mission through sponsorships and fundraising events at both local and national levels
- Jon Hassler, a senior policy and payer relations analyst at Labcorp, has seen the impact that Labcorp’s partnership with UHCCF can have on families—including his own
One door closes, another opens
While Anna Kate’s surgery was successful in removing her congenital nevus, she experienced another seizure about six months later.
“We started pushing her doctors for an MRI to make sure everything was OK,” said Jon. “They came back to us with good news and bad news.”
The good news: The congenital nevus wasn’t affecting Anna Kate’s brain.
The bad news: Her doctors had diagnosed her with a different condition: Chiari malformation, a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal.3 The severity of Chiari malformation varies from person to person, but in Anna Kate’s case, the malformation had caused a cyst to develop within her spinal column—an issue that could lead to paralysis in the long term.
“It’s basically a slow-growing spinal injury,” explained Jon. “Some people who develop a cyst in the spinal column can’t walk; others lose their sense of taste. It just depends on where exactly that cyst is in the spinal column and what it’s impacting.”
Around age 5, Anna Kate underwent surgery to remove a part of her brain that was causing the cyst—another costly medical procedure.
“At first, we were not aware that we could apply for another grant from UHCCF,” said Jon. “But the same friend who urged us to apply the first time informed us that you can get multiple grants—as long as you don’t exceed the lifetime maximum ($10,000 per child)4—and encouraged us to apply again.”
Though Jon and his family felt “more comfortable” with the application process the second time around, he admitted that they were still unsure about whether they’d really receive another grant.
“Even though we have health insurance, brain surgery can still cost a ton of money out of pocket,” said Jon.
Within a few weeks, the Hasslers were approved for another medical grant. “UHCCF came at the right time and helped us avoid being catastrophically impacted by the finances of our situation,” shared Jon.
Finding community in unexpected places
Today, Anna Kate is 10 years old and back to being a kid.
She’ll always have to keep an eye on the Chiari malformation in her brain, said Jon, as the condition can sometimes require more surgeries later in life.5
Regardless of what happens, Jon knows that UHCCF is in his corner to support him and his family.
“When you’re a parent—particularly a young parent—you sometimes feel lost,” shared Jon. “You have your family and friends, but you can still feel alone in the process, especially when it comes to dealing with health issues like this with your kids.”
For Jon and his family, the support they received from UHCCF was more than just financial. “Our whole experience with the organization has made us feel cared for,” he said. “UHCCF would check in with us throughout the process, asking how Anna Kate is doing and whether we need anything. They really were invested in us as a support system, both financially and emotionally.”
Plus, a few months after Anna Kate’s second surgery, the Hassler family was invited to a bike race fundraising event for UHCCF, where they not only received “VIP treatment” (including gift packs and lunchboxes filled with snacks and toys for the kids), but also had the unexpected opportunity to meet another family who’d also received a grant from the Foundation for their child.
“We all shared our experiences with UHCCF to show where the fundraising money goes and how it impacts families,” said Jon. “It was a great opportunity to connect with people who’d experienced something similar and support one another in our respective journeys.”
Motivated by the shared belief that equitable healthcare starts with healthy families, UHCCF’s partnership with Labcorp eases the burden that medical debt can place on families like the Hasslers.
“Every parent wants their child to have every advantage possible,” said Jon. Thanks to UHCCF, that’s exactly what Anna Kate has now."
Learn more about the initiatives we are leading to drive change within the communities we serve across the country and around the globe and the impact they are making on our communities at https://www.labcorp.com/access.
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Congenital Nevus (Mole). chop.edu. Accessed January 1, 2023. https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/congenital-nevus-mole
- National Organization for Rare Disorders. Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus. rarediseases.org. Accessed January 1, 2023. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/giant-congenital-melanocytic-nevus/
- Mayo Clinic. Chiari malformation. mayoclinic.org. Accessed January 1, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chiari-malformation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354010
- United Healthcare Children's Foundation. Helping Kids, Changing Lives. uhccf.org. Accessed January 1, 2023. https://www.uhccf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/UHCCF-Grant-Brochure-September-2020.pdf
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Chiari Malformation Fact Sheet. ninds.nih.gov. Accessed January 1, 2023. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/chiari-malformation-fact-sheet