CONNEAUT, Ohio — Among the biggest worries for families, are unplanned medical expenses. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, medical problems contribute to 66.5% of all bankruptcies.
Now, one health insurance company is stepping in to help some of those families shoulder the burden.
Madison Colucci is like any other active 8-year-old.
"Gymnastics, dance, softball,” she said while listing the activities she participates in.
Her favorite part of softball?
"I mostly like batting and then running the bases after you bat, like you run first, second, or third and that's pretty much it. And then I like snack time after it!"
But when she was just a newborn, doctors doubted she'd ever make it on the field.
"About a month and a half in, they said she wasn't going to make it through the night,” Madison’s mom, Melissa Colucci, said.
Madison was born just a minute after her twin sister Lexie, but with a condition called transposition of the great arteries.
It means the pulmonary and aortic valves of her heart formed in the incorrect positions.
"They then life-flighted her and she had her first heart surgery without us because I was in the hospital for seven days,” Melissa said,
After that, Madison suffered a series of complications, undergoing several surgeries, and years of scans and medications to monitor her leaky heart valves.
She had her second open heart surgery last September, the bill totaling $198,000.
"It's definitely something that weighs on a family every day. We are the type of people that pay our bills on time. We would not ask anyone for a penny,” Melissa said.
Both Melissa and her husband work and have insurance, so they had given up on finding any programs that could help them.
But a couple of years ago in a newspaper article, they found the UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation.
It provides medical grants for children who have insurance, but are not fully covered.
Since 2007, UHCCF has given more than 19,500 grants worth more than $48 million to families across the country.
Families can get up to $5,000 a year per child, with a $10,000 lifetime maximum per child, and they do not need to have insurance through UnitedHealthcare to be eligible.
"Its made it significantly more convenient,” Melissa said.
The Coluccis were able to get a machine in their home to do Madison’s bloodwork, instead of taking her to the hospital every morning before school and saving them $101 in out of pocket costs for every two visits.
Now, Madison is an ambassador for UHCCF and the family shares their story with others all over the central region.
"There is something out there for people who are working and trying to do the right thing and go to work and set an example for their children, yet their children have medical disabilities or things that insurances don't cover,” Melissa said.
As for Madison, Melissa says more heart surgeries down the line are likely, but like the ones before, they won't stop her from reaching her goals.
"Being a singer has always been my dream since I was born so I've always wanted to be one,” Madison said.
The UHCCF is on its way to awarding its 20,000th grant by 2020. More information can be found on its website: https://www.uhccf.org/