KENNER, La. - A Jefferson Parish teacher is battling brain cancer and at the same time, her insurance company. Carin Graber is an English teacher at Bonnabel High School in Kenner. Her husband Brian Graber is a music teacher in the JP school system.
Brian says after two prior surgeries, his wife's doctor at MD Anderson in Texas wanted to try an advanced type of radiation called Proton Beam Therapy. 'I think it's probably about twice as expensive as normal radiation, but quite a bit safer for a cancer patient that has brain cancer,' said Brian Graber.
Carin's treatment is now on hold. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana denied coverage saying, 'there is insufficient scientific evidence to show improved health outcomes using this therapy.'
'It's been around 50 years,' said Brian. 'They've developed this into a state-of-the-art procedure. Most insurance companies cover this.'
Carin says her heart sunk when she got the denial notice. 'I believe if I were to lose anymore brain cells that I wouldn't be able to live a normal life,' said Carin Graber. 'I have trouble finding words and it's already hard for me.'
Officials at the Jefferson Federation of Teachers are now trying to help the Grabers. They plan to ask the school board to reinstate a policy that would allow teachers to donate sick days to the couple.
'They can do it on a case-by-case basis,' said JFT President Meladie Munch. 'I think it's just humane enough that you do this for your loyal employees and people who have serious illnesses.'
Munch says the Grabers' problems may be deeper than Blue Cross and Blue Shield. 'Blue Shield oversees the Office of Group benefits which is the state employees hospitalization program,' said Munch. 'I know there's been a lot of talk in the paper about how the fund balance of the fund has been depleted.'
Blue Cross, Blue Shield spokesman John Maginnis released a statement saying, 'If a member disagrees with Blue Cross' decision, the member has the option to file a second appeal. In these cases, an independent panel of medical professionals who are not affiliated with Blue Cross reviews the appeal.'
So far, multiple appeals have been denied. 'They're claiming that this is an investigative procedure which is absolutely preposterous,' said Brian Graber.
The Grabers are now trying to raise the estimated $90,000 cost of the Proton Beam Therapy. If you can help, log on to www.helpforcaringraber.com.
There will also be a benefit concert at the Howlin' Wolf on August 30, featuring Tab Benoit, George Porter, Bonerama and many others.