Sioux Falls teacher fights for special cancer treatment

February 21, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Sioux Falls teacher has been denied insurance coverage for special radiation to treat her brain cancer.

Katie Blunck, 32, learned of her rare cancer diagnosis after having a tumor removed from her brain last month. She told the Argus Leader that the disease attacking her brain cells, Anaplastic Pleomorphic Xanthro Astrocytoma Grade 3, is “very aggressive, hard to kill and considered incurable.”

Blunck’s insurance company has twice denied her coverage request for a special targeted form of cancer treatment called “proton radiation beam treatment.” Blunck’s doctor recommended proton therapy as a way to minimize radiation exposure to the rest of her brain, but her insurer has said it’s “not medically necessary.”

If the insurer denies her third request, Blunck will have to resort to “photon radiation,” which she worries will damage brain cells that aren’t cancerous. She’s set to begin radiation Monday.

“I’m just hoping somebody can change it and say, ‘yes,’ so I can get the treatment that I need to save my life,” Blunck said.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield said in one of its rejection letters that “further research is needed to prove the advantages of proton beam therapy over the other types of treatments.”

After her second rejection, Blunck started reaching out to South Dakota’s congressional delegation, state lawmakers and the Sioux Falls Education Association for help.

Blunck has also received financial support from her colleagues, who have raised more than $7,400 through a GoFundMe page. The Sioux Falls School District and her coworkers also donated sick days so that she can still get paid through the remainder of the school year.

“The insurance company will be as they will be, and things will go as they will go,” Blunck said. “But to know that I have so many people rooting for me ... this outpouring is so amazing.”


Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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