The mother of a diabetic child who made national headlines this week after receiving a controversial email from a Mississippi lawmaker now has spoken face-to-face with the legislator.
Nichole Nichols and other mothers of children with Type 1 diabetes met with Rep. Jeffrey Guice, R-Ocean Springs, at the State Capitol Wednesday morning. Guice contacted Nichols to set up the conversation, she said.
Nichols told Mississippi Today she would not describe the meeting as “positive or negative,” but as far as whether he offered solutions to her problem, she responded “not at all.”
The furor began on Tuesday, when Nichols, who lives in Rankin County, emailed members of the House of Representatives about problems with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) not covering costs for her daughter’s medical supplies.
“Many parents, myself included, have found that while supplies are deemed necessary and technically covered by insurance, we cannot get Medicaid and/or CHIPS to pay for them, and suppliers aren’t able to help us,” Nichols’ email to legislators stated.
Guice sent a curt response: “I am sorry for your problem. Have you thought about buying the supplies with money that you earn?”
Those supplies would amount to $2,500 a month, Nichols said.
After a whirlwind of media attention and public criticism, Guice issued an apology through House Information Officer Meg Annison Tuesday night.
“I realize my remarks to Mrs. Nichols were completely insensitive and out of line,” said Guice. “I am sorry and deeply regret my reply. I know nothing about her and her family and replied in a knee-jerk fashion. I’d like to think the people of Mississippi and my constituents know that I’m willing to help where I am able.”
On Wednesday morning, Guice met with Nichols and several other mothers, some of whom had a negative reaction to the meeting.
Guice did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday afternoon.
Nichols said the meeting lasted about an hour to an hour and a half. Despite the lack of resolution from the meeting, Nichols has been contacted by several people with the Division of Medicaid and at least one coverage issue is being addressed.
“It sounds good, but until I have confirmation from a (supplier) distributor and a parent has the product in hand, I won’t believe it,” she said.
Kaitlan Sudduth, a 22-year-old with Type 1 diabetes who works with the Diabetes Foundation, also attended the meeting with Guice and others.
She said Nichols explained her situation again to Guice, who apologized.
“It ended with him apologizing again and saying — he’s supposed to contact the foundation at some point,” Sudduth said.
Sudduth said Guice did not offer any specific solutions but did say he would “talk to people about things that could be done … He did say maybe some good could come out of this.”
Clancy Walker of Summit wrote on Facebook that she also attended the meeting. In her post, she said she believes he “only apologized because he was told to,” and took issue with a question he posed to Nichols.
“Towards the end of the conversation he looked at Nicki and asked, ‘do you worship?’ I think we both were taken back with that question and wondered where this was headed. He proceeded to tell her that where he goes to church they help each other and maybe she should contact her church for help!” she wrote. “ … He still missed her point! No one is asking for a handout from anyone. We just want the insurance companies to approve and help pay for our supplies and meds to keep them alive without having to go through hoops every month.”
Nichols said she has been surprised by the outpouring of support she has received in the past few days but disappointed by the response of state lawmakers.
“You would expect to be able to go to the Legislature even in a state full of people who largely disagree with Medicaid and expect them to say, ‘This is a child and she needs some form of medicine, let’s see what we can do to help the child get the medication,’ ” she said.