Recipients React to Blind Health Funding

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JEFFERSON CITY - Blind citizens said Thursday they are grateful the governor restored funding to a health fund, but said the money is not enough. Gov. Jay Nixon announced Wednesday he had found $17.75 million for the program from a federal grant.

Linda Luebbering, the state budget director, said the money came from an additional earning the state can earn from Medicaid. When the state originally calculated the amount of money for which it could apply, the figure was $12 million. Luebbering said now the state has confirmation it can apply for $30 million.

The state senate and house will hold a conference to work on the differences in their budget plans. The legislature will decide the final plan to appropriate the money. Luebbering said the state could use the money for any purpose, not only on the blind health program.

Dacia Luck, who is blind, said the extra $18 million dollars is not enough. She said the state needs to fully restore the program to around the $28 million mark to cover the lack of other health insurance among blind people.

Luck also said she didn't understand why the house wants to cut the fund, which has existed for decades. She said lawmakers made a lot of wrong assumptions about blind people, such as that blind people are healthy and rich. 

"I know a friend of mine said his medicines, if he has to pay on his own, it costs a thousand dollars a month," Luck said.

Luck said the state of Missouri has more than 2800 blind people and 70 percent of them are either under unemployed or out of work. Luck said three quarters of them don't have any other insurance.

If the senate and house make an agreement to restore the program, it will go into effect on July 1, the start of the fiscal year.