Karen Garloch

UnitedHealthcare offers financial assistance for children’s medical care

Luke Donaldson was born five years ago with a heart defect that required surgery and left him, a year later, with a neurological speech disorder that affected his ability to recall words and speak clearly.

Until he was 3, speech therapy for his apraxia was available at no charge through Mecklenburg County social services. But when Luke needed more one-on-one sessions than public programs and private insurance would cover, his parents turned to the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation for help.

Even though Edward Donaldson, a self-employed home inspector, has a high-deductible insurance plan with another company, the UnitedHealthcare foundation awarded the family two grants, of $5,000 each, in 2013 and 2014. The Donaldsons didn’t use all the money, but they were able to pay for about $7,000 worth of extra 30-minute, one-on-one sessions with a speech therapist, at $60 each.

“Without this grant, I couldn’t afford to do the visits, … and Luke wouldn’t be speaking as fluently as he is right now,” said Donaldson, whose wife, Bethany, stays home to care for their three children. “They really have done wonders.”

The Donaldsons are among more than 200 families in North Carolina who have received grants in the past three years from UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation, an organization associated with UnitedHealthcare insurance company.

Last year, the foundation awarded more than 2,000 grants worth $5.4 million to families across the country for therapy associated with cancer, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, hearing loss, autism, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, ADHD and cerebral palsy.

Qualifying families can receive up to $5,000 annually per child, with a lifetime maximum of $10,000 per child. The money can be used for medical services and equipment, such as physical, occupational and speech therapy, counseling, surgery, medicine, wheelchairs, orthotics, eyeglasses and hearing aids.

Applications are being accepted for financial help to pay for a child’s medical care that isn’t covered, or not fully covered, by insurance. There is no deadline. Parents or legal guardians may apply at www.UHCCF.org.

To be eligible, children must be 16 or younger. Families must meet economic guidelines and have health insurance, not necessarily through UnitedHealthcare. Grants cover medical expenses incurred 60 days prior to the application date and for future medical needs.

To raise money for the grant program, UnitedHealthcare has published “Oliver & Hope’s Superhero Saturday,” a 32-page book geared toward children ages 3-8. The book, available at uhccf.org/shop for $16.95, teaches lessons about the power of friendship, resiliency and imagination.

Garloch: 704-358-5078

About apraxia: www.apraxiawalk.org