College mom fights for child’s health


Tammy Zundel is balancing her role as mother and student with an attempt to pass a bill to have insurance companies pay for an amino acid formula for people with EGID. Andrea Whatcott/UVU Review

Kiwi, zucchini, turkey, sweet potatoes, rice, pork, purple grapes and Fuji apples. Eat and repeat. Kiwi, zucchini, turkey, sweet potatoes, rice, pork, purple grapes and Fuji apples.

Tammy Zundel is a student here and the mother of four children. The foods mentioned above are her third daughter’s dietary routine. Her daughter has Eosinophilic Gastritis, which is a part of the disease group EGID.

EGID is triggered by certain food protein structures and will irritate, enlarge or otherwise close off certain parts of the digestive tract. The throat, colon, stomach and small intestine are the most affected areas. Anyone who has the disease becomes dehydrated or malnourished due to either vomiting or diarrhea.

This limits what people can eat and what they actually digest. The guidelines for food are so strict that the list doesn’t even include Red Delicious or Granny Smith – only Fuji apples.

“We didn’t try green grapes because she gets to eat grapes and that’s good enough,” Zundel said about her daughter’s food choices.

The best form of a treatment is an amino acid-based formula that gives those afflicted the protein they need to survive. It is part of a long term treatment plan, which is between three to five years and sometimes longer.

The formula comes in cans much like baby formula, with one of the differences being that this formula costs $35 to $60 per can. Zundel’s daughter goes through just under a can a day. Right now her insurance won’t cover the cost, but she is trying to pass a bill that would change all that.

Zundel proposed House Bill 233, which would allow those with this disease to have their insurance pay for the formula. It recently passed through the House of Representatives, which also happened the last time she tried to pass it two years ago. During her previous effort, the Senate got the bill on the last day of meetings and it was never passed. This time, there will be over ten days for the Senate to decide.

Bills similar to this have been passed in 13 other states from Rhode Island to Texas. Most other states cover more than just the formula for EGID. The only state with a similar law to what Zundel is trying to pass would be Arizona.

There is only .05 percent of the population with this disease. It is so rare that Zundel will often have to correct the doctor on how to treat the disease. Only one in five of those diagnosed, .01 total percent or 289 people in Utah, need the formula for long-term treatment.

According to Zundel, the bill would raise premiums on insurance 1.6 cents per year. For perspective, the mandate for diabetes costs two cents per month.

The bill has been changed as of Feb. 24 to go from a mandate to an option for insurance companies. This would open the door to meet and discuss the idea with the insurance companies.

“I’ve always wanted to meet with the insurance companies one on one,” Zundel said.

While insurance companies may not want to spend extra money on a small portion of people, Zundel said the bill would actually be cheaper for the companies because they still pay for check-ups, hospital stays and surgery. Zundel’s daughter, for instance, goes in for biopsies multiple times a year and that is with the formula helping out.

The bill has been supported mostly by democrats with both sponsors of the bill coming from Sen. Gregory Bell and Rep. Carol Moss. If the bill doesn’t change, Zundel said that her next sponsor would be Republican Ronda Menlove and would include two democratic co-sponsors.

If this happens, the bill would return to a mandate, which would again force insurance companies to pay for the formula.

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