Christopher and Connie Leap

Cumberland County

My name is Connie Leap. My family and I live in Crossville, TN. I have 3 children, two daughters and a son, Christopher.I first applied for TennCare in 2005 after my family and I moved back to Tennessee, the place we call home.  I was initially refused coverage.  I applied again for coverage for my children, and once again we were refused.  After twice receiving this devastating news from TennCare, I turned to the Tennessee Justice Center for help.   I am so grateful for the assistance we received through the Tennessee Justice Center.  They investigated the issue, found we should have been accepted the first time we applied, and now my children have coverage.

Words cannot begin to describe how thankful we are for the efforts of the people at the Tennessee Justice Center.

My husband has coverage through the ACA Marketplace.

The most pressing medical issues concern during this time was my son, Christopher.  He was born in Tennessee.  We moved to Florida and lived there a short while, and then we moved back to Tennessee in 2005.  We have lived here ever since.  In addition to our son, we have two grown daughters.  One is married and has two children.  The other is working, but does not have any insurance coverage as she has no dependents and her income is too high to qualify for TennCare.  Community assistance has helped her with treatment for kidney stones.

Our son’s health issues first appeared in 2007.  He was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and also “Failure to Thrive”, and blockage in an intestine.  He was 14 and had only gained 1 pound from age 13 to 14.  At age 14, he only weighed 56 pounds.  It was so horrible watching him go through this suffering.

At the time, Christopher qualified for TennCare and was able to receive treatment at the UT Medical Center for three months. He required Ramicade infusions every 6 weeks. On February 26th, TennCare terminated his coverage without notification. He had become too old to qualify for TennCare.  He received a Ramicade Infusion of February 28th because we were unaware that he was no longer covered.  We were then responsible for the $14,000 hospital bill.   Without the Ramicade Infusion, Christopher would have required surgery and faced the possibility of a Crohn’s re-lapse.

He now receives a different type of treatment for his disease due to insurance reasons. There are four types of treatments that would work for Christopher, and once you have tried one, you can’t go back to it. That means thatChristopher is now limited to two other options, if he should ever have to stop using the treatment he is currently on. Thankfully, he is doing very well right now.

My son no longer qualifies for TennCare, but would have qualified for Medicare.  He did not qualify for the ACA Marketplace as his income is too low.  He is a full-time student and supporting himself financially, but he is in the cover gap.

Our society needs to have a “safety net” to protect people in situations similar to my son. Christopher is a successful and smart kid, but he needs medical help to keep achieving his goals, as he has a threatening illness. These are hardworking individuals and families who require medical assistance if they are to survive.

Christopher is one of more than 280,000 people in Tennessee who are caught in the gap and unable to access affordable coverage.