Brain abnormality from childhood keeps 16-year-old uninsured

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon

Broomfield At age 3, Maria Serranos family learned that she had a dangerous growth of blood vessels in her brain. She then endured 23 procedures to shrink the growth a surgery every six weeks.

Now 16, Maria is doing well and made the National Honor Society at her high school this year. She has some trouble with reading and writing, but the rare arteriovenous malformation that she was born with has not caused serious subsequent health challenges.

Even though she doesnt have problems, we worry any time she gets the sniffles, said Marias father, Toby Serrano.

Thats because Maria has not had health insurance since she was 7. Back then, Toby Serrano changed jobs. He could no longer get Maria insured because of her pre-existing condition.

Now, under the Affordable Care Act, coverage is supposed to be available for children with health challenges. But, even if several insurance companies return to Colorados child-only health market, Serrano thinks insurance will be too costly.

Serrano is an auto technician and service manager at D & A Auto Service in Wheat Ridge. The company does not offer health insurance to employees. Serrano has looked into buying coverage for his wife, daughter and himself, but said the plans all cost close to $1,300 a month.

Thats out of reach, he said. Thats more than my mortgage.

So the family pays for medical care out of pocket. To make matters even more complicated, Serranos wife, Antonia, also has a pre-existing condition. She has an inactive thyroid and recently had a mini stroke called a TIA. Antonia Serrano had to be hospitalized for about three days at North Suburban Medical Center in Thornton. Serrano says he now owes $25,000 for the hospitalization.

I make monthly payments. I mail them what Ive got, he said. Thats the first really big hit weve gotten for being uninsured.

Serrano believes health insurance companies dont truly care about people.

Im very disappointed, he said. I think theyre thinking about themselves and their bottom line. Its not about children. Its about dollars.