Medicaid Buy-In Program Gives Colo. Families New Hope
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- Working-class families who have children with disabilities often face crushing medical expenses, even if they're above the poverty line and have private insurance. A new program is helping many of these families get the coverage they need, including the Howards from Grand Junction.
Two months after he was born, Hagen Howard was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder, lissencephaly.
Beth Howard, Hagen's mother, said, "When it happened, the doctor said it was pretty much like going to a golf course and being struck by lightning."
"A normal brain has a bunch of ridges on the outside if you look at it. His brain doesn't have those ridges," said Aaron Howard, Hagen's father.
While their son's disorder is rare, their situation is not.
Family Voices Colorado strives to improve access to and quality of health care for children and youth with special health care needs. Western Slope coordinator for Family Voices, Colleen Roahrig, said, "They own a home, they have health insurance, they planned out their family. Everything was laid out beautifully and suddenly faced with a tragedy, if you will."
Beth and Aaron Howard are teachers in the Grand Valley who have private health coverage. However, after Hagen's diagnosis, that insurance wasn't enough.
"We ask ourselves, when are we going to wake from this nightmare, and know that we won't. You know, it's just who we are, who our family is and we just look at it as taking one day at a time," said Aaron.
Roahrig said, "Trying to wrap their hearts and their brains around the fact that their baby has a disability, and he has some very specific needs."
The Medicaid Buy-In program gives working middle-class families a fighting chance in paying sky-rocketing medical costs.
"The typical guidelines for Medicaid are very low as far as income goes and resources. For this particular program, because it's a buy-in program and there's a premium involved, families can make quite a bit more money and have quite a bit more resources, and still be eligible for this program," Roahrig said.
"Some of this equipment will allow him to, you know, not necessarily walk, but be able to stand, which is something they said he would never be able to do," said Beth.
The new program is giving hope to families who have lost some along the way.
"I remember working one time with a mother who had no idea about this program, the child was newly diagnosed. This mother cried when she was finally approved for this program because they really saw this as a saving grace for their family financially because they were just getting buried in medical costs," said Roahrig.
"He could be with us for another five years, he could be with us another week. But we're just going to cherish every moment he is here and use what we can to make it a happy time while he is here," said Beth.
While challenges remain, the program will make each day a little easier and the future brighter.
For more information on the Medicaid Buy-In Program or to see if your family qualifies, you can call or e-mail Roahrig, who is located in Grand Junction: