A family from Saskatoon out nearly $832,000 in out-of-country medical expenses is breathing a sigh of relief Monday.
Kristin Finn says she was told by Health Minister Paul Merriman that the massive bill, a result of a stem cell transplant received by her son, will be reimbursed by the provincial government.
“We’re in our fifties. I haven’t been able to work because of Conner’s care, and I’ve got another son who has some challenges as well. He has a lot of therapies too that we were covering from our retirement money and that had to stop,” said Finn, who along with her husband liquidated retirement savings to pay for Conner’s treatment.
“Knowing going forward that we’ll be able to get some of those therapies, both for my other son and Conner that they need, and just knowing that we have that retirement back in case something should happen, that security makes all the difference in the world.”
The reimbursement will cover most of the cost of life-saving brain disease treatment received by her now-five-year-old son Conner in 2020. The international treatment had not yet been approved by the Ministry of Health when it was received.
“In terms of the cost of the transplant itself, they’ve agreed to cover the cost,” Finn said Monday afternoon, reference a stem cell transplant Conner received at a specialty clinic in Minnesota.
“I’m actually still in shock. I’ve sort of been walking around in a daze all day. We had hoped that they would look at the file and see that what we did was reasonable.”
In earlier interviews with Global News, Finn explained how, after Conner was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy, she and her husband searched extensively for a Canadian expert on the disease to no avail.
They did, however, discover a specialist working at the University of Minnesota.
After an MRI was completed in Saskatchewan, the family sent the results to the Minnesota clinic, where they were told by the specialist that Conner’s need for the stem cell transplant was urgent and the window for treatment was shrinking.
Worried about waiting in Saskatchewan, either for approval of the treatment or for a referral to an out-of-province Canadian hospital (which they believe would have in turn referred the family to Minnesota), the Finns liquidated their retirement savings to secure the cutting edge treatment.
Their subsequent request to the Ministry of Health for reimbursement was denied, despite Saskatchewan’s Health Services Review Committee suggesting the Ministry reconsider the matter.
Since then, Finns have had to delay their retirement and move to Kansas for work to provide for themselves, Conner and their other children.
That’s why the Finns decided to bring their story to Saskatchewan’s capital city early last week, where Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman agreed to review the case.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Merriman indicated information reviewed “over the weekend” influenced his office’s decision.
“I wanted to take some time to come to the right decision on this and I believe I did come to the right decision on this,” Merriman said.
“There was some other information that the Finn family had brought to me last week that I needed to verify and digest, and I did that over the weekend and reviewed it and came to the decision.”
Alluding to his office’s initial decision, Merriman said that with the information he had his decision was “right where he wanted” it to be, but that the new information brought forward by the Finn family influenced the review.
“I looked at this as the Minister of Health, but I also looked at it as a parent as well, going through a very challenging time with a very small child. So that came into my decision as well to make sure that I was looking at it from all perspectives as I should,” Merriman said.
Finn was first brought into the legislature last Monday as a guest of the Saskatchewan NDP.
“This is a story of a family who had to take a really big step to get their son surgery very quickly as a really dangerous and difficult choice for them,” leader Ryan Meili said in the rotunda, adding the treatment was needed so the family could “watch their boy grow up”.
“It shouldn’t take that level of pushing. It shouldn’t take a family having to come here day after day to face the cameras and the premier, but it did.”