Wellmark executive reveals which condition Iowa's $12M patient suffers from

A Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield executive recently provided more details to help answer a question that has been lingering for months: What type of illness could lead to $1 million per month in medical bills?

Des Moines, Iowa-based Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield sent letters to its 30,000 customers in 2016, telling them it was raising their premiums by about 38 to 43 percent for 2017. The insurer had said the higher rates were partially due to a single member who receives $1 million worth of care per month.

Wellmark said the member with the huge medical bills suffered from a severe genetic disorder but didn't provide specifics about the condition. At a recent presentation to the Des Moines Rotary Club, Wellmark Executive Vice President Laura Jackson offered additional details, according to The Des Moines Register.

The high-cost member is a teenage boy who suffers from hemophilia, a genetic disorder that keeps blood from clotting, Ms. Jackson told the 100 people at the Rotary Club meeting, according to the report.

Katie Verb, director of policy and government relations for the Hemophilia Federation of America, told The Des Moines Register treating hemophilia typically costs between $250,000 and $1 million per year. "A million dollars per month is something we've never heard of," she said.

Treating hemophilia can require expensive infusions of proteins, which can cause treatment costs to skyrocket. Michelle Rice, vice president for the National Hemophilia Foundation, told The Des Moines Register it's plausible that a patient who requires aggressive treatment of a complicated case of hemophilia could rack up $1 million in medical bills per month. 

Hemophilia predominantly affects men and boys. About 20,000 males in the U.S. are currently living with hemophilia, according to the CDC.

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