Madea Vs. Medicaid: Mom Fights for Son with Heterotaxy Syndrome

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Tyler Perry’s Madea may have saved Boone Begner’s life. Born with heterotaxy syndrome, Boone’s heart works with only three chambers instead of four. The condition often becomes extremely dangerous to the patient. Its effects aren’t limited to his heart– his organs, such as his liver and stomach, are jumbled in the wrong place. He lives with 8 spleens and has needed many surgeries.

Boone’s mom, Lisa Begner, battled insurance companies with the fire and determination of her film inspiration, Madea, to get her son the treatment he needed. Keep reading to learn more, or follow the original story at CNN for additional details.

Boone was only 21 days old when he had his first surgery, which was a KASAI procedure that was done to fix his failing liver, since he has biliary atresia. When he was four months old, he went through his first open heart surgery at the University of Wisconsin to repair his three-chambered heart.
Boone’s cardiologist from the University of Iowa wanted the family to return to Wisconsin, since that doctor is familiar with his Situs Inversus anatomy.
They were told in November 2017, when Boone was five, that he needed the surgery sooner than later.
As cold and flu season approached, Lisa was frightened. Boone also has Hypogammaglobuliemia, which compromises his immune system. His doctor told the family that Boone would die if they waited until April.

Lisa shared, “Days, weeks, and eventually months went by. As April is quickly approaching, as boone would fall asleep each night, i would lay with my hand on his chest, fearing tonight wouldn’t be the night he was taken from us.”

Understanding the necessity of the operation, Lisa Begner did what any mother would do– she took charge and did everything in her power to help her child. Her mission started a chain of phone calls to her insurance company. The cardiologist made his recommendation in November. By the middle of March, Lisa was still working through calls with insurance as the situation grew more urgent.

Customer service representatives simply didn’t have the clout to help Lisa with her dilemma. Furthermore, they didn’t seem to have compassion for her case. Lisa Begner, a registered nurse with good knowledge of the medical field, asked one representative to forward her to a supervisor. The representative hung up on her instead.

This is where Madea steps in. Begner enjoys Perry’s films starring the hyper-protective matriarch who won’t stand for any abuse. She admires Madea because she’ll go to war for her family. She doesn’t back down, and she relentlessly advocates for her children.

Faced with a seemingly indomitable roadblock of insurance calls, Lisa asked herself “What would Madea do?”

Lisa Begner imagined “Mama Madea’s” response would sound something like,

“Oh hell no! You ain’t talkin’ to me like that!”

She also knew Madea would “rain holy hell” on this kind of problematic situation.

Channeling her inner Madea, Lisa Begner emailed her governor, Kim Reynolds of Iowa. If the insurance companies wouldn’t help her, Lisa Begner would go to the top and find someone that would.

The next morning, Lisa received a call from Governor Reynold’s office. A staffer informed Lisa that she should expect a call from her son’s insurance company. A week later the insurance group called to tell Lisa they approved Boone’s procedure in Wisconsin. Boone entered surgery recently, and is now recovering.

A spokesman for Boone’s insurance company states that they kept good communications all along the way. Furthermore, the spokesman claims that doctors did not originally indicate the severity of Boone’s condition, or the immediacy with which the surgery was needed.

Lisa Begner is pleased that her son was able to have the procedure. She questions why it took so long and why she had to go through so much. She describes her needing to contact the governor as “absolutely crazy.” And yet, Boone’s story is not entirely unique. Boone receives healthcare through state-run Medicaid, just like 40% of all children in the United States. This story is a win– a strong mother who successfully fought through a dense system for her son, and a determined boy who battled through trying circumstances, and yet, it still demonstrates a need for change across the board.


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