For those with acute or recurring asthma, a steroid inhaler is a real lifesaver. Andrea Barnes of Cincinatti has used a variety of such inhalers for several years. Last month, when she went to get her prescription filled, she was told that the $250 inhaler she needed was no longer covered and that she would have to pay the full amount.
Previously, her insurance had required a $25 co-pay, something her sister said she could afford on her $10/hour pay.
Her employer at "Be Fruitful and Multiply" (BFAMLY) elected to change the company insurance policy to be more in line with their religious beliefs, as permitted under the Affordable Care Act. Birth control and prevention conflicted with said beliefs and are no longer covered. The religion also states that "For every ailment God has given us, he has also provided a cure."
To him, this belief demands that all medicines are a natural product or directly extracted from a natural source. For example, willowbark extract is an acceptable source for salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, but aspirin itself is not. Very few commercial medicines meet these requirements and are available through the insurance plans offered by BFAMLY.
Unfortunately for Andrea, there are no naturally-derived steroids for treating severe asthma. Her sister, Meredith Gowing, did state that " Andrea was able to obtain a soy-based supplement containing natural steroids." She also purchased an albuterol inhaler out-of-pocket. Neither product was able to treat the severe asthma attack she experienced the evening of January 1.
Meredith did take her to the emergency room, but they were unable to revive Andrea. In addition, the estate of her sister is now responsible for over $1,500 in medical bills. The standard treatment provided by the emergency room did not include only the natural products and methods covered by her insurance.
Our reporters did attempt to contact her employer to discuss this issue. However, he was unavailable at the time. We were informed that he is currently undergoing an exorcism to treat bi-polar disorder. When he returns from his medical treatment he will be available for further questions.