2017 was a rollercoaster year for our brother Sam. On top of being diagnosed with aggressive stage IV cancer, his insurance, Golden Rule, a United Healthcare Company, denied all medical coverage. Not only has this year been a fight for his life, but also a fight for the insurance he paid for and deserved. So many of you have reached out to see how you can help Sam. Although we realize it is a lofty goal, our hope is to raise money to pay for Sam’s current unjust medical debt accrued this year, allowing him to put his current income towards his life expenses. To read more about Sam’s journey, please see below. For those that don’t know, our brother Sam Bloechl, was diagnosed with cancer on January 13th, 2017. He had spent 7 years in the landscape design-and- build business and then started his own company, Natural Bridge, LLC in 2015. When his back began to bother him around November of 2016, he attributed it to the physical nature of his job. Sam decided to go to a chiropractor who provided no medical diagnosis, but noted thatSam’s spine had a slight curve and recommended a regimen of adjustments and physical therapy. Unfortunately, Sam's pain increased over the next few months and he decided to get an MRI. Since the new year was approaching, Sam decided that given his expected medical costs, it was an appropriate time to upgrade his health insurance plan to ensure all imaging and/or follow up procedures would be covered. Through a health insurance broker, Sam purchased a policy from Golden Rule, a United Healthcare Company. Sam was explicit with the broker that he had back pain, had seen a chiropractor, and needed a better insurance policy to insurance any treatment he needed would be covered. Sam’s MRI at Rush University Medical Center revealed he had Stage IV T-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, an extremely aggressive, yet treatable cancer. The news stunned Sam, his girlfriend Meg and all of us. Floored by the news, Sam and Meg listened as the doctors outlined a course of treatment that would involve several extended hospital stays, radiation, 6 months of chemotherapy, 4 rounds of intrathecal chemotherapy, and a stem cell/bone marrow transplant. They expressed hope that Sam would be in full remission at the end of the 6 months of chemotherapy and radiation, but insisted that he would still need the stem cell transplant. Without the stem cell transplant, his doctors feared that the cancer would return and if it did, with a vengeance. Essentially, the initial treatment could bring remission, but the stem cell transplant would bring a cure.Like everything else our brother has faced in his life, he attacked the treatment head on. Meg also never faulted as they took the devastating news in stride and accepted their new reality and fought for Sam’s life together. Meg accompanied Sam for 6 months of chemotherapy and radiation and while there were some long weeks and tough nights, he was rewarded when, as the doctors predicted, his cancer was able to be controlled and he went into remission, the medical treatment had been a success. Unfortunately, while this battle looked as if it was being won, his fight with insurance looked much bleaker.To make an incredibly long and frustrating story short, Sam’s health insurance, Golden Rule, a United Healthcare Company, ultimately denied all coverage from January to June as well as the impending stem cell transplant that Sam’s team felt was absolutely necessary. Although Sam had told the broker about his back pain and chiropractor visits and was told that this would not be an issue, this was not the case. The denial explained that because Sam had gone to a chiropractor for back pain, his cancer was considered a pre-existing condition under United Heathcare’s definition. To make matters worse, they waited until mid-June to make this decision, which meant Sam had to cancel his scheduled transplant and endure 8 EXTRA ROUNDS of chemotherapy just to ensure the cancer did not come back while he tried desperately to figure out how to get insured and receive the stem cell transplant the doctors felt was vital to saving his life. Sam was denied all coverage and dropped from his insurance in June, which made it nearly impossible for him to get new insurance outside of the annual open enrollment period. Sam, Meg, and others pursued various avenues to gain insurance coverage, only to continually run into dead ends. The Obamacare plans were not able to deny him based on a pre-existing condition, but none of them were able to cover the stem cell transplant that Sam needed. Sam spoke to lawyers who essentially told him that while he was probably right, fighting the case would be prohibitively expensive, with no guarantee of success and no pathway towards getting the treatment he needed immediately. It appeared that Sam had “slipped through the cracks” and not only would be sunk by massive debt for the treatment he had already received, but would be unable to gain insurance to get the life saving treatment he needed. It goes without saying, but the frustration of having to fight this battle while feeling terrible was incredibly tough on Sam, Meg and all of us.By late summer, Sam’s persistence paid off. After a meeting with a health care consultant, Sam was finally able to secure new coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois for his treatment going forward. There would be a very large out of pocket cost for Sam and his business, but if he offered his employees insurance through his company he could, in turn, get new health insurance outside of the open enrollment period. This would do nothing to aide with his past bills resulting from the denial from Golden Rule, a United Healthcare Company but it would allow him to receive his stem cell transplant. Finally, in September, Sam was admitted for his 6-week hospital stay at Northwestern for his transplant. The stem cell transplant has been much harder than we anticipated as beyond the initial month in the hospital Sam has had to be admitted numerous times for other complications. Meg has kept a daily blog highlighting his journey which can be found here: www.caringbridge.org/visit/sambloechlTo say Meg has been a support for Sam is an understatement. She has truly lived through this with Sam and has been by his side through it all. Their partnership through this has been admirable; Sam’s unparalleled strength and resilience has been complemented perfectly by Meg’s patience, compassion, and care. All of the middle-of- the-night ER visits, doctors appointments, medication schedules, home health, infusions, and hospital stays have been done together. Meg took a 4-month leave of absence from her job as a high school counselor to care for Sam during and after the stem cell transplant. She spent every single day and night at Northwestern with Sam, collectively spending thousands of dollars on meals and parking alone. For his part, Sam has been unable to work, but he kept his business running to take care of his employees, which has been an additional financial burden. Sam has been through the unimaginable this year. Sam’s recovery is far from over, but the $800,000+ of medical debt owed to Rush University Medical Center, a debt that only exists because of the ridiculousness of United Healthcare and irresponsibility of the insurance broker, is a heavy reality. A reality we fear will prevent Sam and Meg from moving on together in their lives attaining all the dreams that they have been fighting so hard to protect. Sam and Meg are always the first to offer help and the last to ask for it. We ask that you support them now in their time of need and ask for your donations to help relieve some of the financial stress now upon them, it means more than you could ever know.