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State makes it difficult for one family to get medical insurance for their children

Posted at 10:19 PM, Jul 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-22 22:19:46-04

BYRON CENTER, Mich.-- After five months of failing to get results with the Michigan Department of Human Services on a medical insurance issue, Jamie Tuttle and her husband contacted FOX 17 Problem Solvers for help. Today, the problem is resolved.

Jamie and her husband tried to cancel  their kids on their medical insurance for five months after their biological father passed away, but one road block after another left the children at risk.

The roadblocks all boiled down to privacy issues at the DHS.

“I mean, we are legal guardians and custodians of these children, but we have no way of finding out anything about their medical records,” said Jamie, who is the biological mother of the children.

Despite being their mother and legal guardian, Tuttle was unable to obtain any information from DHS about her children’s medical insurance status. She reached out to FOX 17 Problem Solver, Cassandra Arsenault, for help.

It’s an unusual situation, according to DHS. The boys lived with their biological father under his Medicaid. After when he passed away five months ago, Jamie couldn't get any of their medical information due to privacy laws.

“I have had to deal with enough with their father passing and him being sick, and this is just one more thing that's piling on,” said Jaimie Tuttle.

The mom understandably worried about her teenage sons, Alex and Eric. The boys had no medical insurance, and every day that passed she hoped they wouldn’t get hurt or fall ill. They went uninsured for about five months after their father passed at the end of June.

“They have been uninsured since the end of March, as far as we are aware of, and anything can happen at this point. They need to be covered,” said Jamie.

Alex and Eric had Medicaid through their biological father before his death. Jamie's current husband, Charles, has been trying to get the boys on his medical insurance for five months.

“I was told I needed a letter of cancellation of coverage. We decided to wait for the mail to come,” said Charles Tuttle.

The Tuttles were waiting for a letter of cancellation from DHS, but because of privacy laws, Charles and Jaime say they got the run around.

“They directed us back to the county. So the county sends us to the state and the state sends us to the county and around we go," said Charles. "Back to the state, back to the county, until we are just stuck in the middle."

The Tuttles said despite having the father's death certificate and paperwork from the state showing they were legal guardians, DHS still wasn't helping them out. All the while the clock is ticking, and the Tuttles knew there would be big consequences if something ever happened to their children.

“We are stuck paying the bill and possibly penalized by the government for not having insurance,” said Tuttle.

FOX 17 Problem Solvers called DHS to see why a legal guardian wouldn't be able to obtain a letter or information on her children's medical status.  A response from DHS came 24 hours later:

"We emphasize the importance of protecting customer confidentiality and our employees are rightfully careful about this. However the parent of minor children can receive information from our department about whether those children are covered by Medicaid.”

Shortly after that response, after five months of being told she couldn't get any information, Jaimie "finally received an e-mail from the state that had an attachment to it and actually had a cancellation notice with it stating the insurance was cancelled," she said.

The boys are now on their way to being put on their step-father's insurance.

“It was very much a relief this afternoon when I got the e-mail," said Jamie. "I was like, Thank you! It is a lot of stress lifted. Now we aren't concerned about being penalized on our federal taxes for not having insurance for the children."

“This type of situation is unusual, but in the end we determined some information can be provided," said DHS when FOX 17 asked where everything went wrong.

The Tuttles pleasantly surprised they had finally received the information they need to get their children insured.

“I was so excited. I was ecstatic, because we have been going through this for so long, and it's just been frustrating, and I was just finally happy to get some results. So thank you so much for doing that for us.”