EDMONTON — The Alberta government has launched new benefit programs that will provide special baby formula for parents.
The government said the programs, which started Sunday, provide coverage for Neocate infant formula when an infant can’t tolerate common infant formula because of a food allergy or a specific medical condition.
“Some babies have to rely on specialized infant formulas to meet nutritional needs. But these formulas are costly, medically necessary and, in many case, cause families considerable financial,” Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne said.
The average cost of Neocate is about $690 per month.
In recent years, several local families have approached Global News to share their struggle of trying to cover the cost.
Some families have had to spend upwards of $1,000 a month to feed their baby the hypo-allergenic formula after all other options made the child sick. In many cases, their insurance company wouldn’t cover the cost because Neocate was considered a dietary supplement, not a drug. In some cases the insurance company relented and coverage was approved.
Lisa Caskenette’s son Isaac doesn’t use the formula anymore, but up until he was about three years old it was the only thing his body could tolerate because of a severe allergy to cow’s milk protein.
“We are so excited and elated. It’s been such a long time but we are happy and thankful,” Caskenette said of the funding announcement Monday.
Along with fellow mother Natalie Trinh, Caskenette started petitions to get the formula funded. The petitions garnered nearly 8,000 signatures.
“Quality of life is much, much more and these children can actually live to be happy and healthy,” Caskenette said.
“It’s a no-brainer. It makes sense to cover the formula for families, rather than to cover the costs of the medical that they would need if they were hospitalized,” Trinh said.
“We’re just relieved, more than anything, that we know that there’s other families that aren’t going to have to face what we did.”
Payne said funding the formula is “the right thing to do.”
“After speaking with these parents and hearing about the financial strain they are under, our government decided this coverage should be provided,” Payne said.
In order to receive coverage, the government said Neocate must be prescribed by, or in consultation with, a pediatrician, a neonatologist or a pediatric gastroenterologist.
Families have to apply for government’s non-group coverage to get the benefit.
A monthly premium ranging from $82 to $118 and a co-payment of up to $25 per prescription will also be needed.
Watch below: St. Albert family pays over $500/ month for their baby’s prescribed formula. Su-Ling Goh reports.
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News.
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