A state program that helps tens of thousands of children with disabilities is facing big changes, and it's causing a lot of confusion for families who rely on the program.
8-year-old Britton Blackstock's adorable laugh and delightful smile bring so much joy to his mother.
But daily life for the Brunswick family is often compounded by so much hardship.
"He has so many appointments," says his mother, Melissa. "He's sick all the time."
Britton has cerebral palsy, among many other conditions. His medical bills are never ending and total tens of thousands of dollars every month.
They're bills that his mom says she and her husband could never afford on their own. But with help from a state-run program called "Children with Medical Handicaps," or "BCMH," she says they can.
"It's a safety net and more," says Blackstock.
BCMH fills the gap, paying for medical expenses not covered by insurance for 40,000 children statewide.
Under the 2018 proposed state budget, the program would undergo changes and would be run by Medicaid.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the program is $11 million over budget and not sustainable.
The proposed changes would address the deficit issue because, right now, many children covered by BCMH are also covered by Medicaid, so taxpayers pay twice for the children to use some services.
But any talk of change is causing stress for parents like Melissa and concern from Disability Rights Ohio — a non-profit advocacy group and the state's investigative arm for people with disabilities.
"So we're concerned that there would be a group of people who currently would have gotten services but under the new system won't become Medicaid eligible," Executive Director of Disability Rights Ohio Michael Kirkman told News 5.
If the proposal passes, new families who apply after July 1 will be eligible if they are at 225 percent of the federal poverty level. So a family of four with a child with disabilities can't make more than $54,000 a year to qualify under the new proposed rules.
Currently, the threshold is 185 percent of the poverty level but several other factors are also taken into consideration.
Two important things to note about the proposal:
- Right now, it's just a proposal
- Under the plan, families currently in the program would be grandfathered in and could stay as long as they continue to meet the requirements.
The Ohio Department of Health issued this statement in response to our story:
Proposed changes to the Children with Medical Handicaps program aim to improve quality of care for Ohio’s most vulnerable children and their families. Building on the Ohio Department of Medicaid’s strong foundation of clinical expertise and care management, the proposal seamlessly integrates existing benefits for children with medical handicaps with Ohio Medicaid programs. Additionally, this proposal ensures a sustainable funding source exists in the future to support children and families with the greatest needs, minimizes disruption to those currently receiving services by allowing non-Medicaid eligible participants to stay in the existing program, and ensures care coordination and all medically necessary services will continue to be provided for those on Medicaid and those who meet the new program’s financial eligibility criteria above the Medicaid threshold.