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Lawsuit May Extend Care for Disabled Under ADA

A lawsuit filed on the behalf of eight people who have severe disabilities may prevent their age based medical care coverage from ending. The plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit are in danger of exceeding the age limit or have exceeded the age limit of a medical program for children. The lawsuit argues that any discontinuance of medical care would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One of the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit is a young woman from Illinois who has been severely disabled since birth. The young woman was born with multiple disabilities. She receives her food and medicine through a tube and uses a respirator to breathe. The young woman is also not able to talk or move, but her parents know when she is happy or sad by the noises she makes and by her arm movements.

Currently, the young woman receives medical care under a state program that provides nursing care at home for medically fragile and technology dependent children. The young woman from Illinois requires 16 hours of care per day and the care costs $220,000 per year. The woman's care under the program is not indefinite because the program is meant for children with disabilities. Children are no longer eligible for the care when they turn 21. Individuals with severe disabilities that reach the age cut off face losing the same level of state supported care that has kept them healthy.

Individuals who age out of the program can be forced into nursing homes or state institutions if care cannot be maintained at home. In October, the young woman turned 21 and the woman's parents faced the issue of providing more care themselves in order to keep their daughter from being cared for at a nursing home. The lawsuit will determine whether the termination of funds is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While the lawsuit goes through court, the state of Illinois has decided to continue its same level of services. Hopefully, the young woman will continue to receive the same level of care she deserves.

Source: NPR, "Olivia Welter, Other Severely Disabled Adults Win Round in Court Battle," Joseph Shapiro, 11/22/10

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