Haysville teacher wins big, insurance company to pay for bionic arm

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Haysville teacher is one step closer to getting a long-awaited surgery to get mobility back in her left arm.

“Now, I have hope where before I just had the possibility,” said Sondra Stieber, Haysville science teacher.

Stieber fell out of her bed and broke her clavicle in 2018. That’s when microscopic blood clots started to develop and travel down to her fingers. Stieber attributed numbness and discoloration in her fingers to her Lupus at first, but when she went in to see her doctor she learned her forearm would need to be amputated.

After her surgery, she reached out to a fellow amputee and amputee advocate, Julie Dombo. That was when her life began to change once again. This time the change would provide her and other amputees a glimmer of hope.

“I was going to the state legislator, and I had a lobbyist that was helping me and setting me up with the people I needed to talk to,” said Dombo.

Dombo was determined to help amputees by working to get insurance companies to expand their coverage to myoelectric and microprocessor prosthetic devices. She did just that. It took four months before Dombo and Stieber got the good news that would change the future for amputees.

“It just so happens that Julie was able to get a commitment, a promise from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kanas,” said Stieber.

A promise and an expansion in coverage. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas will pay for the cost of these high-tech devices. But for Stieber, it meant more waiting.

“They want Sondra to wait until October 1st, 2021, and I thought she was going to be able to get it January 1st,” said Dombo.

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas has expanded coverage for myoelectric and microprocessor prosthetic devices for fully insured group plans starting January 1, 2021. However, the benefit will go into effect on the start date of each group’s plan year, which may not be January 1. The start date for a group’s plan year is selected by the employer when they purchase their initial insurance contract.  Benefit changes do not begin until the start of a new plan year.”

Katrina McGiven, BCBSKS Corporate Communications Manager

This means Stieber will have to wait another year and a half before getting her myoelectric arm. Despite this, Stieber is already looking forward to all the things she will be able to do once she gets another hand.

“That will be the first thing I do when I get my arm is travel,” said Stieber. “Oh, I will definitely ride motorcycles again when I have a hand.”

As for Julie Dombo, she’s thankful that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas is taking lead on expanding coverage and she is hopeful other insurance companies will follow in their footsteps.

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