A Mississippi lawmaker told a woman Tuesday she should earn money for the insulin pump supplies that her 8-year-old daughter needs to survive instead of asking the state for help.
Nicole Nichols told The Clarion-Ledger she was “flabbergasted” by the email from state Rep. Jeffrey Guice, R-Ocean Springs.
Nichols said she emailed all 122 state representatives after calling 23 suppliers without finding one covered by Medicaid and in the approved network for the Medicaid-covered supply company she has used for the last three years.
She wrote, "Is there someone in the legislature that can and will help these children stay healthy? They must have these medications and supplies which administer the medications to stay healthy and, quite honestly, alive!"
Guice's response, which Nichols posted on her Facebook page, said, "I am sorry for your problem. Have you thought about buying the supplies with money that you earn?"
Kaitlan Sudduth, the communications coordinator for the Mississippi Diabetes Foundation told the paper she was “shocked at the lack of compassion” in the lawmaker’s email.
Sudduth said his comment proved that he is uneducated about the dangers of living with the disease.
"One of the goals of the foundation is to educate people about diabetes, and this person is obviously not educated on it," she said. "If someone had an extra $2,000 a month maybe they would pay for it out of pocket, but that's really unrealistic."
Guice issued an apology Tuesday night after initially declining an interview request from The Clarion-Ledger.
"I realize my remarks to Mrs. Nichols were completely insensitive and out of line," Guice said in an emailed statement. "I am sorry and deeply regret my reply. I know nothing about her and her family and replied in 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."
Nichols said Medicaid paid for her daughter Bella's medication for three years, until the supplier began outsourcing products and shipping six months ago. The subcontractor that now provides the pump supplies and insulin is not covered by Medicaid, she said, so she has been paying more than $2,000 a month.
Bella inherited Type 1 diabetes from Nichols' husband, Nathan. He's a transportation company inventory specialist and also works a second job in a restaurant.
Nichols said they "work their tails off" to make ends meet, but still live "paycheck to paycheck."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.