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Lawmakers Work To Protect Children Who Can Die From Eating Wrong Foods

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) - Samuel Meberg can count on his fingers the foods he's not allergic too.

(credit: CBS)

The 7 year old is one of about 200 kids in Colorado who was born with a potentially life threatening protein allergy. Even breast milk can leave them with severe stomach pain and diarrhea.

"So you have the combination of a baby that is going every few minutes and just screaming in agony because its burning his already raw bottom," says Janie Dullard.

Both of her sons -- 3-year-old Thomas and 1-year-old Jack -- were born with the allergy. She says the only thing that kept them alive was a specialized formula. "I had this sick baby for three weeks and we put him on medical formula and he was well in four days."

But the formula costs up to $5,000 a year and insurance won't cover it. Most kids outgrow the allergies as babies, but Samuel Meberg needed it for years.

"My husband's a pastor. We were overseas working with churches, not living a lucrative life, without much margin anyways. We racked up quite a bit of credit card debt," said Laurie Meberg.

Allergies 3
(credit: CBS)

State Sen. Laura Woods hopes to help ease the families' burden. She's carrying a bill that would force insurers to cover the formula.

"It's the most vulnerable of our society. These tiny babies that have no other option and for low income, middle class families $3,000 to $5,000 extra per year just to feed the infant is a staggering amount."

Dullard says while her boys are now able to tolerate rice milk, the formula cost them 10 percent of her husband's take-home pay and their savings.

"I don't think any family should have to go through what we did," she said.

The bill passed a Senate committee and is headed to the floor. It has already passed the House. While insurers aren't supporting the bill, they also aren't opposing it.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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