Local News

Harnett County dad thanks Blue Cross for daughter's improved health

Posted March 8

— After two months of battling for insurance coverage for their 12-year-old daughter's rare condition in 2012, a Harnett County family turned to social media recently to put pressure on Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

In 2011, Ellen Whittington developed auto-immune encephalitis, a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the brain and causes a loss of language and motor skills.

Doctors at Duke said she needed an intravenous treatment of immune globulin that cost nearly $60,000 dollars. The family went to social media, and to the state Department of Insurance and to WRAL.

Faced with the bad publicity of a growing Facebook campaign and the possibility of the state Department of Insurance ordering coverage, Blue Cross agreed to pay for Ellen's treatment, her father Brian Whittington said.

Now, 17-year-old Ellen is a student at Triton High School, and doing much better than in 2012. She couldn't talk and couldn't feed herself.

“When this disease struck us, we literally felt like we had the only child in the world that was fighting it,” Brian Whittington said. “I mean the doctors were clueless.”
And, Blue Cross Blue Shield denied coverage four times for her prescribed treatment, which the company said was experimental.

“I would really like to say thank you to Blue Cross,” Brian Whittington said. “They finally did cover Ellen, and they have not wavered from coverage.”

Ellen now plans to compete in the Special Olympics swimming.

“I think her future is going to be with her mom and dad, as long as we’re around to look after her,” Brian Whittington said.

Whittington described his daughter as a fighter. But he said, if not for the treatment, Ellen wouldn't be here today.

A spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield told WRAL the policy for covering the immuno-globulin treatment has been updated. He said it is covered if patients meet certain medical criteria. At the time of the 2012 story, the company said there wasn't enough evidence the procedure would help Ellen.


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