Letters: At-Home Care For Disabled Children

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Robert Siegel reads letters from listeners about Monday's story on the cut-off of Medicaid funding for at-home care once disabled children turn 21.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

And it's time now for your comments. We got many in response to a story on yesterday's program. We reported on the problem that some parents face when their disabled children turn 21 and lose Medicaid funding for at-home care.

We focused on Olivia Welter. She is severely disabled since birth, and she just turned 21. Her entire life, she's been cared for at home by nurses and by her parents. The state of Illinois says it will continue to pay for her care if she is in a nursing home. But her family doubts she'll get the kind of care that she needs to stay alive, and they are suing to keep her where she is.

TAMARA WELTER: I've had doctors, a couple of doctors, who have questioned doing something for Olivia, kind of on the basis of: Is she worth it?

I've looked them in the eye and said: Don't you dare say that to me. Do you have children? What would you do for your child? I think society can look at a person like Olivia and say: What can she contribute? But - I'm going to cry again.

SIEGEL: Well, Samuel Leonard of Cheverly, Maryland is one of several listeners who had a similar reaction to the story. He writes this: Taxpayers should not have to pay anything for a child like Olivia. If Olivia's parents could afford to pay for this treatment, I cannot argue with their right to do so. If they cannot, how can they ask the rest of us to support their child?

Olivia's mother stopped short of answering the question: What can Olivia contribute to society? I realize this is a difficult question, but answer it we must.

Well, Ann McKinney of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, has a different perspective. She writes: What can she contribute? May I offer compassion; a true, pure love; a wonderful, often unique sense of humor; and the capacity to bring people out of themselves? Not bad for one person, eh?

And McKinney goes on to say that her disabled daughter died four years ago. And she adds this: Why can't we honor these individuals rather than make their lives more difficult by, for example, pushing them over the precipice when they reach the age of 21? My heart and wishes for strength and tenacity go out to the family in your story.

Well, you can send us your comments about anything you hear on the program at npr.org. Just click on contact us at the bottom of the page.

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