GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - A local family is relieved their perfectly healthy baby boy has health insurance, just days after he was denied coverage for being too big. Now they're taking their story nationwide in hopes that it will have a positive impact on the health care debate.
You may know Bernie Lange as the anchor of "11 Today", but Monday afternoon, he and his wife Kelli were on the other side of the news, talking about how the health care crisis has affected them.
At four months, their son Alex already weighs 17 pounds, putting him in the 99th percentile for infants his age according to CDC guidelines. When they called Rocky Mountain Health Plans last week, the company told them it only covered people up to the 95th percentile and Alex was too big to receive insurance. Now just days later, they're singing a different tune.
"He said that Rocky Mountain Health Plans could go ahead and change the policy not just for us, but the policy in general," says Lange.
Rocky Mountain Health Plans CEO Steve Erkenbrack says this issue came to his attention after 11 News and subsequent media outlets reported the story. In reviewing the company's policies, he determined the 95th percentile cutoff was appropriate for adults who may be overweight, but not appropriate for someone like Alex.
"When you're talking about a four month old who's breast feeding, it just doesn't make any sense to apply those general population criteria to this," says Erkenbrack.
Now, he says Rocky Mountain Health Plans will no longer use that weight criteria to determine if babies get coverage.
"The right thing to do is to find a way to cover the baby and that's what we did," he says.
The Langes say they're relieved their son has coverage, but are now more worried than ever about the state of our nation's health care system. "It's kind of bittersweet because we know there's millions of other people without coverage," says Lange.
Now, both they and Erkenbrack are taking to the national airwaves, hoping their story show just how important some kind of reform is. "It needs to be addressed," says Kelli. "A four month old not having insurance is just a very small particle in this big, huge world."
And they've shown what can happen when two sides come together to make the system work. "If we can do this this fast, why can't it be done in Washington?" Kelli asks.
"When you approach a problem like we have and the Langes have, saying here's the problem, here's the situation, how do we fix this, finding a way to fix it without getting all emotional about it," says Erkenbrack. "Frankly, maybe Washington could take a page out of the book of Grand Junction."
Baby Alex appeared on NBC Nightly News, "The Ed Show" on MSNBC, and several local stations across Colorado and the country Monday night. Tuesday morning, the Langes will be featured on NBC's "The Today Show" and NPR.
** KKCO would like to disclose that the subject in this story is the son of one of our employees. Bernie Lange, Alex's father, is a part time employee of KKCO, outside his time at KKCO he is self-employed.