Op-Ed

Don’t reduce Ky. Medicaid services for those with brain injuries

Mark and Elizabeth White of Pikeville are concerned about cutbacks in a state Medicaid program that provides various therapies for their son, Matthew, who has an acquired brain injury.
Mark and Elizabeth White of Pikeville are concerned about cutbacks in a state Medicaid program that provides various therapies for their son, Matthew, who has an acquired brain injury. Photo provided

We were enjoying a wonderful Christmas Day when it happened eight years ago. My son, Matthew Stoney White, was at the time 23 years old and in his final semester at the University of Kentucky. He had traveled back to Pikeville to enjoy Christmas break with his family.

Driving down one of our curvy Eastern Kentucky country roads, he encountered black ice. The car went sideways into a large tree and Matthew received an acquired brain injury.

It could have happened to anyone.

Matthew spent the next 33 days in the ICU. He was accepted into the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where we stayed until mid-August 2009. He was then transferred to Cardinal Hill in Lexington, and started therapy at Horn Richardson Associates.

He fights every day to regain his independence and is currently enrolled in the acquired brain injury waiver program administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department for Medicaid Services. He requires three hours of occupational therapy, three hours of physical therapy and three hours of speech therapy each week.

We were informed last week that new regulations being discussed (907 KAR 8:040 and 907 KAR 8:45) would limit the amount of therapy he could receive through the waiver to 20 hours per year, total.

This would cut Matthew’s therapy from 400 hours per year down to 20 hours per year — a 95 percent cut. This change would have a devastating effect on his recovery efforts.

If patients are able to stay in the program with adequate therapy, they have a fighting chance to recover from their injury and regain some or all of their independence. When therapy patients recover, the long-term cost of care becomes far less than the costs of care without therapy and without full recovery.

Without the required special skilled therapies, most patients who have some independence would end up in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. This would end up costing taxpayers many times over, and add up to much more than the cost of therapy.

We have also heard that this is a so-called soft number, and that some patients could continue with limited therapy if they continue to show improvements. However, this would result in a break in the continuum of care and improvement and would require additional doctor visits.

This would also have a devastating effect on the specialized therapists, who would lose patients, and ultimately we would lose these needed professionals.

Our experience has taught us that the brain is the slowest healing organ in the human body, but it does have the capability of healing — if the correct regimen of therapy, diet and attitude is followed. We continue to see Matthew winning small victories in his fight to recover from his accident.

On weekends, Matthew works at home with his mother and friends doing eye therapy, standing, stretches and exercises. He literally works from the time he gets up until he collapses from exhaustion on a daily basis.

My wife and I have dedicated what time we have left on this Earth to helping Matthew recover from his brain injury, but we are limited in our ability to provide the needed special skilled therapy.

Since the accident, my wife Elizabeth retired from the Pikeville Independent School system where she headed up the math department and coached track and field, in order to move to Lexington with Matthew, while I stay in Pikeville with our two younger sons and work in our construction business.

I pray daily for his recovery and give thanks to all who work with us in this effort. There is nothing more important to us than the continued recovery of our son, and the other patients in the ABI waiver program. Please do everything humanly possible to maintain the current level of therapy.

Mark White of Pikeville owns a construction company.

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