UPDATE: Cancer Patient Who Struggled With Insurance Company For Care Coverage Passes Away


Danni Gilbert sits outside of St. Lukes Mountain States Tumor Institute in July.
  • Laurie Pearman
  • Danni Gilbert sits outside of St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute in July.

Boise Weekly has learned that Danni Gilbert died early this morning.

In July, BW reported that Gilbert, a Mountain Home school teacher and mother of two battling cancer, which had made its way into the 39-year-old's lungs and liver, was fighting her insurance company for coverage of her care. At the time, her oncologist, Dr. Dan Zuckerman, wanted to treat her with a biweekly cocktail of chemotherapy, including a drug called Avastin, which is designed to rob a cancerous tumor of precious blood cells.

But Gilbert's insurance company, Blue Cross of Idaho, wouldn't pay for the Avastin, ruling that the drug didn't meet what it called its "standard of care."

"She's a young, vibrant woman married with kids about my age," Zuckerman told BW in July. "But she's fighting for her life. Who can fault a young woman with young kids in the prime of her life?"

When Blue Cross denied Avastin as a second-line treatment to Gilbert, she appealed to the insurance company, writing:

"I was shocked but also determined to do everything in my power to fight this disease. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that part of this fight would be with my insurance provider."

Gilbert continued to use the Avastin as part of her chemotherapy but it was a treatment-to-treatment decision, because at the time, she was put into the position of paying full out-of-pocket expenses for the drug.

On Sept. 12, Gilbert wrote the following to her friends and family in an email:

"At this point, we are just trying to make the best of what time is left and get the most out of every moment. I hate to share this news with you all but from the beginning I have always felt that for my own sake being honest is most important."

Gilbert ended by writing:

"Thank you everyone for your love, care, compassion and support. We will need it even more in the coming weeks and months."

UPDATE: Approximately eight days later, Blue Cross of Idaho reversed its earlier decision and decided to pay for the Avastin, including retroactive payments, due to an updated ruling from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, deeming Avastin to be an acceptable standard of care in the treatment.

Blue Cross spokeswoman Karen Early told Boise Weekly that the letter was sent to Gilbert soon thereafter.

"It's important to point out that Danni continued to use the Avastin," said Early, referring to Gilbert's personal decision to pay for the drug on her own while awaiting word on her appeal. "We weren't going to be able to cover the drug until the NCCN ruling."

Three weeks later, Gilbert passed away with her husband James and two daughters nearby.

A caregiver at St. Lukes Hospital holds Danni Gilberts hand during treatment in July.
  • Laurie Pearman
  • A caregiver at St. Luke's Hospital holds Danni Gilbert's hand during treatment in July.