Health Care Services Sought From Senators Working On Budget

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Rhiannon Traigle has waited years for Louisiana to provide some assistance for her 12-year-old son Riley, who has a fast-progressing and fatal form of muscular dystrophy. Traigle has no idea when the wait will end.

         For now, the mother told state senators Saturday, she and her police officer husband use their insurance and pay out of pocket to care for Riley, whose disability will progress until he is unable to control any part of his body.

         Traigle was one of dozens of parents who filled a public budget hearing held by the Senate Finance Committee wearing yellow shirts with the words "A Waiting List is NOT a Service." They asked for dollars to expand home- and community-based care for their disabled children through a Medicaid program called the New Opportunity Waiver, or NOW.

- Sponsors -

         "If we have to continue to wait for waiver services, Riley may not be here to receive them," Traigle told the committee. "We understand that the state is in a budget crisis, but families like mine, we are in a crisis every day."

         Health care services topped the list of requests from people who asked senators to include their needs in Louisiana's $24.3 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

         With money tight, a budget shortfall projected and cuts on the horizon, the wants far outweigh the dollars available as senators consider ways to make changes to the House-approved version of next year's budget.

- Partner Content -

Entergy’s Energy Smart Program Brings Cost Conscious Innovation to New Orleans

Offering comprehensive energy efficiency at no cost to the consumer, Entergy’s Energy Smart program incentivizes Entergy New Orleans customers to perform energy-saving upgrades in...

         The average wait for NOW services is 10 years or more. Traigle's family has been on the waiting list since her son's diagnosis in 2008. She detailed the gradual deterioration her son can expect, saying Riley's genetic disorder will leave him unable to even hold his head.

         "Since their heart and lungs are also muscles, around the age of 20 my son Riley will lose his battle … and his life," said Traigle, executive director of a Thibodaux-based center that assists families of people who are developmentally disabled.

         Gov. Bobby Jindal and lawmakers froze NOW expansion plans as part of midyear budget cuts earlier this year. Traigle and others sought $3.4 million in state financing to end that freeze and $7.7 million to add services for 500 more people.

- Sponsors -

         They also asked for nearly $3 million for the Early Steps program, which offers therapy services for children up to 3 years old who are having troubles with speech, vision and motor control development.

         Senators who listened to the emotional testimony were sympathetic, saying they were looking for ways to expand service offerings while acknowledging the difficulty of finding dollars to even continue the state's current level of health programs.

         "We're going to do everything that we can to help you all. We are great admirers of you, for the jobs that you do, and we're going to try to make your life a little easier by what we do," said Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville.

         Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, got choked up as he described a nephew with disabilities: "It took a long time to qualify for the services, but he did. The services do matter."

         Others simply sought to hang onto the health care money the House already added to next year's budget, including dollars for assistive technology for disabled people and for community health care clinics in the New Orleans area.

         The Rev. Patrick Mascarella, blind and assisted by a yellow Labrador retriever, urged continued support for Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, which helps disabled people live and work independently in their communities.

         "When I lost my sight, I became illiterate. I could not read. It is because of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services I learned braille," said the retired Catholic priest, his dog resting near the witness table.

         Carmen Weisner asked the committee for $1 million to help people ages 18 to 21 to transition from foster care to independence.

         "It's a human and moral obligation that the state provides for these children," said Weisner, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte

         For more information





Digital Sponsors / Become a Sponsor

Follow the issues, companies and people that matter most to business in New Orleans.

Email Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter