Disabled Challenge Health-Care Cuts

CHICAGO (CN) – Illinois slashes medical funding for disabled people’s home care when they turn 21, and does it without considering medical needs, according to a federal class action. The named plaintiff, who is paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator, gets $20,000 a month from the state program. After it cuts his funding by nearly 50 percent, it will cost $55,000 a month to care for him in a hospital.

     The state’s “Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waiver for Children that are Medically Fragile, Technology Dependent” program provides funding for medical care at home instead in a hospital. But when a person “ages out” of the program, the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services places them into the “Illinois Home Services Program” which reduces their medical funding by almost half, without considering the person’s medical needs, the class claims.
     Named plaintiff Sean Stout, who is paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator, gets $20,000 per month from the Medically Fragile, Technology Dependent (MF/TD) program for his 24-hour, in-home nursing care.
     When he turns 21 in September, Stout’s medical funding will drop to $11,483, and he will be forced to live in a hospital, or “faces a strong possibility of imminent death” if he cannot get adequate nursing care at home. The complaint says it will cost $55,000 per month for Stout to be institutionalized.
     The class claims that HFS has refused to improve its policy, and increase its “exceptional care rate” for older patients, even though the department has already lost five lawsuits filed by disabled people concerning the problem.
     Class counsel Robert Farley of Naperville says that in 2007 there were 457 children in the MF/TD program. He says that a state representative has testified that “there were 34 active cases of 18- to 20-year-old individuals, 19 of whom were ventilator-dependent” and who will probably be transferred to the Home Services Program.
     The lawsuit alleges violations of the American with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

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