Medicaid Cuts Affect Prosthesis Patients
More than 700,000 Missourians do not have health insurance. You wouldn't know by looking at Jerry Mitchell that he lost a leg two years ago. Medicaid paid to help him walk again. But, last September, Medicaid stopped paying for wheelchairs, walkers and prosthestics, leaving Mitchell in a bind.
"I'm basically going without treatments that I need," he said.
Columbia's Services for Independent Living helps disabled Medicaid patients, but cuts make that more difficult.
"I have never seen it affect people with disabilities like the Medicaid cuts did last year," added Tarzie Hart, SIL assistant director.
Mitchell's benefits no longer pay for the sleeve that holds his prosthetic leg in place. Sleeves can cost several hundred dollars, and they frequently wear out. Mitchell recently went through three in as many weeks.
"The governor and the lawmakers need to look at the whole picture as far as the prosthesis [goes]," said Mike Darby, a staff prosthetist at Central Brace Co. "They're going to have all the components they need to make it functional for [patients]."
Gov. Matt Blunt's spokesperson said health care is the biggest financial concern for the state. A Medicaid overhaul planned for 2008 will give lawmakers a chance to put dollars back in the budget.
"They'd better replace it with something better," said Hart. "Just because the money goes away does not mean the need goes away."
State health officials say more than 800,000 Missourians are on Medicaid, but officials could not tell how many of those patients are affected by equipment cuts.
The Department of Social Services can be reached at (573)751-4815.