Ailing federal worker says she’ll get back lapsed insurance

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SALEM, Ore. — An ailing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worker in Oregon who was running out of a treatment to keep her alive and could not reach her employer during the government shutdown said Friday that she will get back her federally paid insurance coverage that lapsed months ago.

Jasmine Tool said she only had enough of a nutrient formula that she gets through a feeding tube to last through Friday. She said she had been unable to learn why her insurance lapsed or how to get it back because the shutdown meant no one was answering her calls.

Tool, who has a paralyzed stomach and brain tumor, was elated after a regional office of the Fish and Wildlife Service told her she would have coverage again.

“My insurance is set to be reinstated Monday!” the 30-year-old said in an email.

The U.S. government has said employees with active insurance will not lose it during the shutdown. Tool’s situation was unusual but shows the unexpected ways the shutdown can affect people.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon had pointed to Tool’s plight to call for an end to the four-week-long shutdown.

“How can it be that a country as rich and powerful as ours fails Jasmine in such a shameful way?” Wyden said on the Senate floor this week. “There is only one immediate solution. The shutdown must end, and it must end now.”

Tool can’t eat by mouth said the provider of the nutrients that keep her alive would not send more without a home health care worker. The worker would not come unless Tool was covered by insurance or she paid for it herself, which she said she can’t afford.

“If don’t get more, I will begin to starve,” she said Thursday.

Tool has an inoperable but benign brain tumor that’s slowly growing and a paralyzed stomach from a condition called gastroparesis.

Her health issues led her to take medical leave in February 2017 from her job at the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex. She worked at the refuge headquarters in Lakeview and says medical resources in the small town near the California border are scarce.

When she tried to make a medical appointment, she was told her employer-provided insurance was no longer active. She called the insurer last week and was told her coverage had lapsed in October.

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