YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A family from Youngstown will be traveling to the nation’s capitol in a couple weeks to help put a face on the problems facing parents with children born with serious medical issues.
On Thursday, Ericka Flaherty and her 3-year-old son Chase were at the Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley campus. They will be one of 44 families from around the country who will meet with lawmakers at the annual “Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day” to discuss the financial needs of families facing ongoing medical care.
Flaherty gave birth to Chase 13 weeks early, and he spent his first four months in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
“He had the chronic lung disease because of the preemie lungs. He also had a history of asthma. He had water in the lungs, so he had a hard time gaining weight too so he spent a long time in the neonatal unit,” Flaherty said.
These days, Chase also suffers with cerebral palsy, had corrective eye surgery and wears special casts to help him walk flat-footed and not on his tip-toes. His parents depend on Medicaid to help cover the bills.
“You have to give him the medicines to keep him healthy and the things and the struggles that he has thereafter,” Flaherty said.
Organizers of the event later this month said they will use the time to encourage support for new reforms that would make it easier for children like Chase to get the care they need while also reducing some of the economic strain on the Medicaid system.
“There is a program called the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was set to expire at the end of September 2015. In April, Congress acted to extend that by two years. If that program had gone away, Ohio would have lost over $140 million every year,” Charlie Solley of Akron Children’s Hospital said.
Organizers said they also will be promoting a new measure known as the Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act, which would help reduce some of the costs associated with caring for children like Chase.
“I think it is a really creative way to provide high quality, more efficient care for really sick kids,” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said.
Portman is one of the sponsors of the Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act. He said the measure will help children get the care they need, while also reducing costs on the Medicaid system.
“I think it is something like, 6 percent of the kids account of about 40 percent of the Medicaid funding and these are kids that have chronic conditions,” Portman said.