Owner selling restaurant to help waitress with brain tumor

Kaiserhof owner Michael De Beyer is trying to sell his restaurant to pay medical bills for waitress Brittany Mathis. (Photo: KHOU). Kaiserhof owner Michael De Beyer is trying to sell his restaurant to pay medical bills for waitress Brittany Mathis. (Photo: KHOU).

At the Kaiserhof Restaurant and Wunderbar in Montgomery, Texas, you can get knackwurst served with sauerkraut, pan fried potatoes and German mustard for $11.95, the huhnerfrakasse (a creamed chicken dish with mushrooms, asparagus and rice) for $13.50, or the special of the day: the entire restaurant for $1.3 million.

Yes, Montgomery’s only true German restaurant is up for sale, in part because the owner wants to help one of his employees to get medical help she and her family can’t afford.

The story of Michael De Beyer’s offer to sell his restaurant to defray 19-year-old Brittany Mathis’s treatment for a brain tumor has spread quickly. First told on a local Houston TV station, De Beyer’s announcement that he would sell his place in part to help his waitress and her family has been picked up by Yahoo! and other online news outlets as well as TV stations worldwide.

It has also touched off a raging controversy surrounding De Beyer’s motivations for taking such a step.

Lionized by one segment of the media community as “the best boss ever,” another more cynical element has questioned just about everything about De Beyer’s “good deed.”

Is he using Mathis’ condition to try to publicize his repeated efforts to sell the restaurant? How much would he actually contribute to her medical treatment once the restaurant is sold? Is there a romantic link between the two? And on and on.

Not surprisingly, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been dragged into the mix. Much of the negative spin some have put on the story revolves around the fact that Mathis has no health coverage, and as of Jan. 6, hadn’t applied for coverage under the act.

Critics have pointed out that she could receive coverage despite her pre-existing condition under the act. In fact, women of her age are one of the primary targets of Obamacare.

Overlooked in the online debate about De Beyer’s motives and Mathis’s failure to seek coverage is the fact that anyone who has to be treated for a brain tumor faces enormous costs beyond what any insurer would pay.

It isn’t known what Mathis’ exact diagnosis is — she and her family say they’ve been given the cold shoulder by the local medical community and don’t really know what sort of treatment they’re looking at yet. They’ve been told she has “a ping pong ball sized tumor,” the Courier newspaper in Montgomery reported. So far, that’s it.

Generally speaking, most brain tumor patients incur significant costs that fall outside of general health insurance reimbursements. Many items related to any disability they may experience before and during treatment could become out-of-pocket expenses, including transportation needs, special diets, drugs to control pain and other side effects, the use of home-health aides and caregivers, and lost wages due to the inability to work.

Families suffer financially as well if they are forced to miss work to care for a loved one or have to drain their savings to pay for non-reimbursed costs.

Mathis will almost surely have coverage via the PPACA within days given the furor over her failure to apply. Then, many of her expenses will be covered. But for a family of restaurant workers (both her mom and a sister also work for De Beyer), the non-reimbursable costs of her treatment could be devastating.

That’s where De Beyer comes in. In the wake of the massive publicity around his generous offer, he will almost certainly underwrite some of those expenses, regardless of his motives. Watch for both Mathis and De Beyer to become poster children of the emerging PPACA healthcare era.

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