National Federation of the Blind of Missouri Press Release

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The Missouri Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri oppose balancing the budget by cutting health care for blind Missourians.

Columbia, Missouri, and St. Louis, Missouri, March 13, 2012: The President of the Missouri Council of the Blind, Denny Huff, and the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, Gary Wunder, stand with Governor Nixon in saying: "Cutting healthcare for the blind, prenatal care for women, services for people with developmental disabilities, and child care for low-income families is not the way to balance Missouri’s budget.

"It is just plain wrong," says Denny Huff, President of the Missouri Council, who is himself blind."  Huff says, "This would really be devastating to many of the recipients of the Medicaid provided for the blind."

The House Appropriations-Health, Mental Health and Social Services Committee propose to restore funding for higher education in part by cutting health care for 2,858 blind people receiving the Missouri Blind Pension. Gary Wunder, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, notes, "Most people receiving medical assistance as a result of the Missouri Blind Pension have a very limited income—most are not employed. Paying medical costs out of pocket wouldn’t be an option. Many will not qualify for private insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions, and those who do will find the monthly premium so high that to purchase private insurance will be impossible.

This proposal has come from somewhere out in right field—no discussion, no impact statement, no consideration to how people will do without the medical care they have been provided since 1967."

Those blind people receiving services from Missouri HealthNet who have no other health coverage or who have other conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, or glaucoma, the treatment of which requires expensive drugs, will be forced to use the Emergency Room as their primary source of health care, so preventative care will be out of the question, and the healthcare they will receive will be the least comprehensive and most expensive.

Huff continues, "Legislators need to recognize that many of the recipients are not only blind, but have other disabilities, and many are elderly. To take this medical coverage away from them when they have no other recourse would in many cases be life threatening."

The Blind Pension is a state-funded program paid for through three cents per hundred valuations on real estate property tax paid in to the Blind Pension fund. It is an assets based program and includes MO HealthNet coverage. Even though blind people receiving medical services as a result of the Blind Pension Program are generally low income, their income and assets are just high enough that they are not eligible for regular Medicaid.

To qualify for regular Medicaid, a recipient’s income must be 15 percent below the poverty line. Thus, to continue to receive medical care, many blind people receiving the Pension would have to give up what small assets they have that made it necessary to apply for the Blind Pension in the first place or go without health care.

The two organizations of the blind that provide services and programs to assist blind Missourians have found common ground in opposing this transfer which, if it occurs, will be at the expense of those least able to absorb the additional cost and reduced care.

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The purpose of the Missouri Council of the Blind is to promote the general well-being of our members and legally blind people in Missouri, and to support or participate in other programs promoting the best interests of legally blind people everywhere.

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND–IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES.

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