Father Of Premature Baby Needing Special Care Can’t Change Insurance To Cover Costs Due To Shutdown

A premature baby in an incubator reaches for his mother's hand
napocska / Shutterstock

The partial government shutdown will officially be into its fourth week in just a few hours, and people who weren’t expecting to be affected are starting to struggle. It’s not just the 800,000 federal employees who have been furloughed or who are working without pay that are feeling the effects of the shutdown anymore.

A new father is also bearing the brunt of it. As reported by ABC News, baby Oliver Daskalakis was born on New Year’s Eve, 10 weeks before he was due to be welcomed into the world.

Very premature in his arrival, the little boy has to be cared for in a specialized neonatal intensive care unit in the only hospital near his home in Lakeville, Minnesota, that has such a facility.

But his father, Joseph Daskalakis, has a slight problem. The 33-year-old air traffic controller’s insurance does not cover the hospital where his son needs to be treated because it is out of their network. Because of the government shutdown, he is unable to file the paperwork he needs to in order to switch insurers.

Given that he is a federal employee, Daskalakis is currently having to go without pay, and his inability to switch insurers means he will likely have to foot a hefty bill for his son’s care.

“I don’t know when I’ll be able to change my insurance, or when I’ll get paid again,” Daskalakis wrote to Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, who posted the letter on Facebook and shared it with the Senate last week.

A visit to the hospital is expensive enough as it is, but a stay in a high-care facility such as a NICU, especially for an extended stay like Oliver’s, would come with an enormous price tag attached. Fortunately, the little boy has been moved to a general ward as he has grown stronger, but is still being cared for in the hospital for the time being.

Daskalakis is also probably not the only federal employee who has a problem with the fact that he can’t currently change his medical insurance. Of the 800,000 other government workers who aren’t receiving their salaries at the moment, it’s more than likely that others have had similar issues.

“With 800,000 employees out there, I imagine that this is not a one-off event,” said Dan Blair, a senior counselor at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “The longer this goes on, the more we will see these types of occurrences.”