Food is a basic part of our daily lives. We plan holidays and social gatherings around meals. But imagine not being able to eat any food without it making you violently sick. That's the reality for a Pasco County teen.
And now, the family’s insurance company is refusing to cover the only thing that’s keeping him alive.
Life has thrown 17-year-old Remington Walls a lot of curveballs. The Land O’ Lakes High baseball player is allergic to food. All food.
“Eosinophilic Esophagitis,” said Walls of his condition, which doctors diagnosed when he was 4 years old. There's no cure.
“When I eat, my white blood cells attack the food, which can cause scarring and ridging in my esophagus, which could eventually cause it to close,” Remington explained.
A Neocate EO28 Splash “shake,” a hypoallergenic amino acid-based liquid formula, is his only source of nutrition. That’s all he has for every meal and every snack, around 18 orange-pineapple shakes a day for the rest of his life.
“We are around $2,000 for what he needs per month. It’s insane,” said his father, Mike Walls.
Insurance has covered that for 13 years, but now the cost is falling on the family.
“I was told that we were denied (by insurance), and I was absolutely shocked. I'm like 'What do you mean we've been denied?' They said 'There's been a change in your coverage. The elemental formula is no longer covered,' and I said 'There's got to be some mistake,” said Remington’s mother, Stephanie Walls.
Frontier Communications bought out his dad's company last year. The family has been told that the medical costs which Frontier covers through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield changed in January.
“The reason for denial says our plan now excludes the following: vitamins, food and food supplements used as dietary supplements. They're saying it's used as a food supplement! I have nothing else to supplement his food source with,” said Stephanie Walls.
"It’s his sustenance for life, and if you can't understand that, then let's take food away from you for a week,” said Mike Walls.
The family’s continuing appeals have been denied. Now they're taking the fight to lawmakers and calling for mandated coverage for anyone who needs this formula to survive.
“These companies need to be held accountable, and they can't be allowed to choose the dollar over someone's life. With my son’s life, it's his only source of nutrition, and they don't seem to get it,” Stephanie Walls says through tears.
10News spoke with representatives from Frontier Communications and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Both companies say they’ll look into the family’s denied claims. 10News will continue pressing for answers.
The family has had an amazing show of support from the community. Since friend Janeen Salzgeber started a GoFundMe page on Friday, they've raised enough to cover Remington's shakes for four months.
You can help: https://www.gofundme.com/remington-walls