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UPDATE: Mississippi: State Representative offers jaw-dropping response to diabetic child's mother

UPDATE: This story has, thankfully, gone quite viral since I originally posted it yesterday morning. One important clarification: I estimated the monthly cost for treatment at around $5,200. According to Ms. Nichols in this local story about the situation in the Clarion-Ledger, the cost for her daughter’s treatment/medication is around $2,000; the balance appears to be for her husband, who also has diabetes. This actually makes the family more sympathetic, because she’s only asking for state assistance for her daughter’s portion of the bill.

In addition, according to the updated local story, the message appears to have gotten through to Rep. Guice (at least to the point that he's issued an apology, anyway): 

Guice, who told The Clarion-Ledger Tuesday morning "I don't do interviews" and declined to comment, issued an apology Tuesday night.

"I realize my remarks to Mrs. Nichols were completely insensitive and out of line," Guice said in an emailed statement. " I am sorry and deeply regret my reply. I know nothing about her and her family and replied in knee-jerk fashion. I'd like to think the people of Mississippi and my constituents know that I"m willing to help where I am able."

OK, great. Now let's see if he and his colleagues actually do anything to resolve the issue itself.

Something which caught my eye this morning. There's a diabetes support Facebook community called "Living in the World of Test Strips" in which the following was posted yesterday. I've retyped it here (with permission) for better readability:

This morning I emailed the Mississippi House of Representatives because T1 kids with Medicaid in MS aren't getting the necessary diabetes supplies and meds they need to stay healthy. Representative Jeffery Guice took the time to respond. I feel it only appropriate to share. If you feel inclined, you can contact Rep. Guice at Jguice@house.ms.gov

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From: Nicki Nichols

I am the mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes and an advocate who works with the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. We have recently begun having a lot of problems with Medicaid/CHIP coverage of the essential diabetes supplies needed, not only to keep our kids healthy, but to literally keep them alive. Many parents, myself included, have found that while supplies are deemed necessary and technically covered by insurance, we cannot get Medicaid and/or CHIP to pay for them, and suppliers aren't able to help us.

They are normal kids who lead full lives, as long as they have the proper diabetes care!

I have spent countless hours, day after day, calling Medicaid/UHC Community Plan, researching medical suppliers, reading Medicaid Policy guidelines and UHC Community Plan coverage guidelines, even researching Medicaid fee schedules, in an attempt to get my daughter's supplies covered and shipped. I am not the only parent who has been through this! No parent should have to fight for so long for their child's essential medical supplies and medical needs when it's explicitly stated as a covered benefit. Yet, I have gotten nowhere.

Is there someone in the legislature that can and will help these children stay healthy? They must have these medications and supplies which administer the medications in order to remain healthy and, quite honestly, alive!

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From: [Mississippi State Representative] Jeffery S. Guice

I am sorry for your problem. Have you thought about buying the supplies with money that you earn?

Thank you,
Jeffrey Guice

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From: Nicole Nichols

Thank you kindly for your response.

I have thought quite often about buying these supplies with money that myself and my husband earn. Unfortunately, if we were to pay out of pocket for these supplies, with money that we earn, that sum would leave my family of four homeless.

You see, type 1 diabetes is an expensive disease.

  • Insulin: $400 per vial of humalog (2 vials a month for my daughter, 3 for my husband with T1)
  • Insulin #2: $150 per vial of Lantus (for emergency pump failure)
  • Test stirps: $300 per month (per person)
  • Insulin pump supplies: $375 per month (per person)
  • Dexcom CGM sensors: $300 per month (per person)
  • Glucagon: $450 per syringe
  • Ketone strips: $80 for a box of 10
  • $150 per month in various smaller prescriptions such as adhesives, alcohol swabs, glucose gels, etc.

Do you earn enough money to pay for these items every month?

While you may, my husband and I, unfortunately, do not. We are working individuals, with college degrees, a small home, older but reliable vehicles, and without Medicaid to cover the LIFE SUSTAINING medications and supplies that my child needs, we would be homeless.

Insulin alone amounts to more than my house payment every month. Insulin literally keeps this little girl alive.

So, thank you for your incredibly rude response, sir. I can see exactly how far out of touch you really are with the residents of Mississippi.

And might I add, belittling the mother of a child with a chronic health condition, who is appealing for your assistance on behalf of the CHILDREN OF MISSISSIPPI is reprehensible. You are a pitiful excuse for a human being, Representative Jeffery Guice.

Sincerely,
Nicole Nichols, MS Resident

Note: I'm not sure how often Lantus or Glucagon is needed, but by my count the above adds up to at least $5,200 per month, or a minimum of over $62,000 per year.

This is an awful story, and this state representative is truly a jackass, but this is also hardly surprising. The Republican mindset in general (there are exceptions) is that if you're not physically disabled, you shouldn't be receiving financial assistance, period. The fact that it might cost thousands of dollars you don't have to keep your kid alive is besides the point.

This is among the main reasons given by many conservatives about why 19 states still refuse to expand Medicaid under the ACA, even though doing so is a huge financial boost for their state and 90% or more of the costs are covered by the Feds.

Now, in this case it's the CHILD who is on the program, not the parent, but since the parent is responsible for/speaking on behalf of the child, it amounts to the same thing. This jackass rep either doesn't grasp how expensive the medication in question is (which shows stunning ignorance) or knows but doesn't give a crap.

On a larger scale, however, this really does illustrate the philosophical differences between the parties (and/or between conservatives/progressives, depending on your POV) when it comes to the social safety net in general. The Republican attitude, as I noted above, is that anyone who isn't physically disabled should "get off their lazy asses and work for a living" (sometimes coached in different language, sometimes not). The default mindset here is that if you aren't able to "pull your own weight" (i.e., afford to pay over $60K/year just to keep your kid alive in addition to the rest of you not starving to death yourselves), you must be either "lazy" or a "moocher". This is the same attitude which brings us idiocy like "drug testing welfare recipients" programs, which time and time again end up with the state wasting millions of dollars in taxpayer money only to turn up just a handful of (or in many cases, none at all) drug users in the process...which is not only a huge waste of time and effort, but is also ironic since the ostensible reason for the testing requirement is supposedly to save taxpayer money.

The Democratic mindset--in general--is that society at large should help out anyone who falls below a certain income threshold, period. What that threshold should be may change from time to time, or it may vary depending on the type of assistance (Medicaid, SNAP, tax credits, etc), but the larger point is that if you can't afford certain essential services--food, shelter, healthcare--society should help provide them. In return, if and when you rise above that threshold, it's your responsibility to chip in to help others caught in the same dire straits. The more successful you are at climbing that ladder, the bigger portion of your success you're expected to give back to society to help others. And if you're lucky enough to never have been in that situation in the first place, then count your blessings and chip in...because you never know whether you will be some day later in life.

Perhaps nothing better illustrates this disconnect in the right-wing brain than this clip of successful Emmy-award winning actor Craig T. Nelson, appearing on the Glenn Beck show some years back:

This really should speak for itself, but I'll spell it out anyway: Here's an extremely successful actor, best-known for his roles in "Coach" and as "Mr. Incredible", openly admitting that at one time he was on both food stamps and welfare, but that "no one helped him out".

Again, to state the obvious: WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK FOOD STAMPS AND WELFARE ARE, you nitwit?

If no one had helped him out, he presumably would've starved to death or turned to a life of crime, which in turn very likely would have resulted in him being shot, stabbed to death or imprisoned. In any event, the odds of him ever becoming a successful actor would have been greatly diminished, and he wouldn't be whining about the evils of public assistance as a guest on a nationally broadcast TV show 30-odd years later.

That's right: Without public assistance, we very likely never would have had The Incredibles. We should probably double the food stamp budget for that reason alone.

In any event, I wish Ms. Nichols all the best in her quest to straighten out her daughter's Medicaid coverage situation.