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Disabled and elderly will wait longer for help

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BATON ROUGE - Individuals waiting for state help for their medical needs may have to wait a bit longer to get the help they desire.

Friday's mid-year budget cuts have frozen more than 1,200 unfilled slots in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals waiver program.

The program provides medical services not covered under Medicaid like home health care and outpatient therapy. The waivers are for the elderly, disabled, and children. The more than 16,000 individuals currently receiving waivers will not be affected. However, there are nearly 13,000 individuals on a waiting list to receive a waiver. In some cases they have waited years for a slot to open up, and now they'll have to wait even longer.

One of those waiting for a waiver is Darla Louviere of New Iberia. Louviere's son has a rare chromosome disorder and requires 24-hour care.

"It puts a very big burden on the family financially," said Louviere. She wants her son to undergo a number of therapies that will prepare him to be a functional adult, but those services aren't covered under her insurance.

Louviere's son has already been on a waiting list for seven years. So when she heard about the freezes, she joined with other parents and disabled individuals and came to the Capitol on Friday to voice her concern.

"Personally I'm just trying to get people with developmental disabilities the help that they need," said Louivere.

The waiver freezes will not save DHH any money in the current fiscal year, instead they're meant to stop the program from expanding in light of even greater budget cuts for the next fiscal year.

"The freeze is something we thought we had to do because we had to stop an expenditure growth in order to continue to serve those we are already serve today," said Administration Commissioner Kristy Nichols.

DHH Secretary, Kathy Kliebert, said the freezes are "very difficult" because she considers the program a priority for the agency. However, she said the freezes were necessary so DHH "can stay within budget means."


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