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When cancer treatments for an Olcott 7-year-old was initially denied, community support swelled

Highmark reached out to 7-year-old Harrison Hazlett's family to let them know they will be covering their son's treatments through September.

OLCOTT, N.Y. — Challenge Olcott's Harrison Hazlett to a game on his Xbox and there's a good chance you'll lose.

"He's really good at playing video games now," said Harrison's mom, Dayna Hazlett. "He loved playing Mario while we were in the hospital. We beat so many games while we were stuck there."

Harrison Hazlett has been in and out of the hospital for the last two years. He was diagnosed with bone cancer on his fifth birthday, and it has come back three times. 

Now 7 years old, he's already had a hip replacement and part of his upper right lung removed, after the cancer spread to it.   

"It was scary and traumatic but we got through it," Dayna Hazlett said. 

To get through cancer once and for all, Harrison Hazlett's doctor at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center wants him to try an experimental chemo.

Dayna Hazlett says it would keep him from spending more nights at the hospital and give her son more time to just be a kid. 

The only problem? 

Highmark BlueCross BlueShield of WNY initially denied coverage for the 12 treatments, costing more than $31,000. 

In a letter to Harrison Hazlett's family, the insurance provider says it denied coverage because it was experimental and "not approved by the FDA in this setting."

"That's when my heart just dropped. We have high hopes for this new medicine. It's not new, but it's new for kids and new for this type of cancer, but it just, it felt like, what are we going to do?" Dayna Hazlett said. 

Word spread quickly around Western New York.

Not only did community members reach out to Highmark multiple times, but they also set up a GoFundMe, raising more than $52,000 for Harrison Hazlett's treatments in just a few days. 

"I was in awe," Dayna Hazlett said. "Just the amount of people that came together so fast for him is just unbelievable."

Highmark has even reached out to Harrison's family in a letter, saying they will now cover his treatments through September. 

The letter didn't mention what caused the sudden change.

2 On Your Side's Danielle Church did ask Highmark why it wasn't covering all of Harrison's treatments.

This is the statement a spokesperson provided:

While we cannot comment on an individual's specific health situation, reimbursement for treatment with this medication is always for six-month periods and should not be cause for concern.

This is intended to foster collaboration with the physician during the treatment process and ensure the treatment proves safe and effective over a reasonable time period.

At the end of this, the approved request for coverage will often be renewed as we consider our member’s specific or unique clinical needs.