Update: Insurance Will Cover Transplant

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The worry over paying for a $1 million medical procedure has ended for an Omaha family. An insurance company reversed its denial not long after a WOWT 6 News investigation.

“This is as much as I can straighten them. The cold affects the fingers so it will turn my fingers white or blue." Her skin hardened by scleroderma, Jackie Latka could feel insurance reps softening their stance against a stem cell transplant. “They were sounding like they were changing their mind and they were asking about the local news story being aired on it.”

"If insurance doesn't pay it's $1.1 million," said Jackie's husband, Jim. "That’s my biggest fear right now is she is going to progress too far where they can't do the procedure."

Medicine and a recliner have been covered. "So I sleep here because it's the only place I feel comfortable." Jackie and Jim's house is full of equipment insurance has already purchased, from oxygen tanks to a variety of wheelchairs with more bills coming in.

"And I can actually go back to work and make a living, which is what I did before this for myself and not have to be on disability to get through life."

Jackie got the word Thursday night that Blue Shield of California will pay for the $1 million procedure. “My daughter gave a big whoo hoo when she heard the news.”

Soon she'll be packing for an eight-week stay in Houston where specialists know how to fight the rare disease. When Jackie returns from the successful stem cell transplant about the first of the year, one of the first activities she wants to do with the renewed strength is to take out the wheelchair ramp.

Twice denied coverage of what insurance considered an experimental procedure, Jackie is relieved by the change of heart. “Almost like a dream come true because we get the answer of yes and we don't have to fight and wait for the letters to come.”

Jackie's stem cells will be harvested, treated and transplanted back in her body. She hopes to be strong enough to watch her daughter play volleyball and soccer next spring.


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