Medicaid waiver cuts threaten local families

By Paul Strater

April 6, 2012 Updated Apr 9, 2012 at 12:08 PM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill -- State spending cuts are a contentious issue this election year and Governor Quinn has proposed many unpopular reductions in state programs.

One program proposed for elimination is a medicaid waiver for medically fragile children.

For one Bloomington family, the cut hits close to home.

Three years ago, Melissa Stiff had triplets that were born 15 weeks premature. Two of them developed a narrowing of the windpipe known as sublglottal stenosis. They still have tracheotomies today as a result.

What you or I would normally cough up has to be suctioned out of the trach tube by hand.

24 hours a day.

"Someone has to be awake with the kids at all times. If the kids' traches were to come out they have five minutes before they would die," said Melissa Stiff, the triplets' mother.

The two nurses that come to their Bloomington home are paid for by medicaid under the Medically Fragile children waiver. It's one of 66 medicaid programs that have been targeted for cutback or elimination in Governor Quinn's new budget proposal.

"In looking at these programs, we need to take a surgical scalpel to the particular process of budget cutting, not a meat cleaver. We'll go in and do the cuts where we think we can do the least amount of harm," said State Reprsentative Dan Brady, Republican of the 88th District.

Stiff says that ending the program would actually cost the state money by having to institutionalize those children.

"There's 600 kids on this program. If we were to take 30 of those kids and they would have to live in a home because their parents could no longer take care of them, the state of Illinois automatically is going to be paying more than if all 600 of those kids were just left at home," said Stiff.

The urgency is not lost on Brady.

"Obviously these are types of programs that we have to look at the most in depth and look to see what we can still keep intact for the life and human services of the child," said Brady, whose district includes Bloomington.

Stiff asks those looking at cutting the program to walk a mile in her moccasins.

"It could be your daughter, it could be your wife, it could be anyone in your family. And next thing they know, millions of dollars in medical bills and you're faced with not having your child live with you," warned stiff.

For a complete list of the medicaid programs under threat, check out the list on state representative Greg Harris's (R)-13th district web site:

You'll find the program in this story in the third group, fifth item down.

To find out more about the program in question, go to this site:

A web site for a group working to save this program can be found here:

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.