Family says doctor recommended divorce to pay child's medical bills

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The doctor's prescription for one Tennessee couple: get a divorce. A local family said they were told a divorce would help with their high medical bills, bills they pay to keep their son healthy.

Instead of taking that advice, the Tindell family said they are fighting TennCare to help their son.

"We tried for almost 10 years to have a baby and finally gave up," Angela Tindell said. "We have each other, and then, surprise, we were pregnant."

Having a baby at 42 put Angela at high risk, but Jackson was born a few months later. He stayed in the NICU for the first part of his life.

"He's come a long way," Angela said. "There was a time they deemed him medically fragile, which meant we're not guaranteeing that this babe will survive. He's always been a fighter."

That was almost six years ago. Fast forward to now, Jackson is in kindergarten, but still requires lots of care. That includes speech, occupational, and feeding therapy, on top of still being on a feeding tube. The formula alone is $1,700 a month.

"You know that your child needs this therapy, or he may need a procedure, but you also know that there is no physical way that you can come up with that kind of money," Randy Tindell said.

He said he has a good job to support his family. For him and many others insurance is expensive and still doesn't cover Jackson's needs. Monthly bills are in the thousands.

"There's always that fear that you're not going to get it, you're not going to be able to get what your child needs," Angela said. "Yet you get up everyday, and you try your hardest, and you work your hardest."

All his therapists and doctors are shocked he's not currently on TennCare because of his diagnosis, the family said.

"We make too much money, and our household income is too high," Randy said.

State lawmakers are now considering a bill that would grant TennCare coverage to more children with disabilities. It would mean parents could make more money, and still qualify for TennCare coverage for children.

"We don't want to lose the children to an institution because the parents cant afford to keep them at home," State Sen. Kerry Roberts said. "We don't want to see parents get divorced, because that's the only way they can qualify for TennCare to get these services for their child."

The family said they hope to get attention from state lawmakers.

"What we really want is what's best for our son," Angela said. "We want these therapies and these things for our son now, so that when he does turn 18, he can live a full life and be a productive member of society."

The bill has already received unanimous approval in one of its committees. It needs more to make it through the finance committee before it goes for a full vote in the Senate.

The family said they hope it passes.