Six-year-old Zoe Osborne had the hardest possible start in life. Born very premature at 25 weeks, she spent the first eight months of her life in the intensive care unit. Zoe was on an oxygen tube until she was one and a half, and later was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Those were long and tough years for Zoe and her parents. At long last, though, Zoe now is stable, and at Christmastime a year ago she gave her parents their best present: she managed to learn to walk.
Zoe continues to need regular care. Her nutrition is supplied through a feeding tube. She needs regular check-ups with an endocrinologist and a heart specialist and regular occupational, physical, and aquatic therapies.
Getting Zoe the therapies she needs cost the family $1,000 a month, the tube feeding hundreds more. The Osbornes were helped by state-subsidized health insurance until 2008, when Zoe’s father, Gregg, received a raise that put the family over the threshold for Apple Health for Kids.
The family does have access to family coverage through Gregg’s employer, but the premiums are very expensive and it won’t cover the therapies that her mother, Darci, believes make a tremendous difference in Zoe’s quality of life and future prospects.
So when Darci learned that, thanks to the 2007 Cover All Kids law, Apple Health was expanding to allow her family to qualify, she was delighted. She applied and learned that Zoe’s coverage would continue seamlessly into 2009. But the day after Christmas she received a letter telling her that, thanks to budget cuts, Zoe wouldn’t get coverage after all. In fact, her state-supported insurance was ending on New Year’s Day, 2009.
Darci Osborne is no stranger to navigating the medical system, and she has done what it takes to get Zoe the care she needs, including moving the family to Spokane from the Tri-Cities to get Zoe closer to medical specialists. She describes herself as an activist. But the sudden news rocked her. “How are we supposed to find insurance over the holidays, with four days notice?” she said.
They didn’t. And that had consequences. Without health coverage, Darci and Gregg couldn’t afford the physical therapy that helped stretch her muscles. Zoe’s muscles, knotted by cerebral palsy, began tightening up, putting her on the road toward debilitating deformity. They couldn’t afford the occupational or speech therapies that were teaching her to stand up, to hold a spoon and feed herself, to expand the number of words she can speak and foods she’s able to eat. They couldn’t afford the therapy that would teach her to climb into her car seat and ease the daily burden on Darci’s back.
Darci and Gregg did their utmost, cashing out investments made for Zoe by her grandparents, but that money quickly ran out. Darci and Gregg faced the prospect of watching Zoe backslide and her prospects dim.
Then, thanks to federal children’s health care legislation signed by President Obama in February, the legislature reinstated the coverage for moderate-income families like the Osbornes. In early March, Darci found an Apple Health for Kids coupon in their mailbox.
Immediately Darci began scheduling appointments, and within days Zoe was making use of her new coverage. Darci tells legislators, “You made our year.”