End of benefits for disabled girl perplexes dad
TheStar.com – Ontario/healthzone.ca – End of benefits for disabled girl perplexes dad
July 30, 2009. Tanya Talaga, Queen’s Park Bureau
Peterborough resident John Wood wants to know why his family was suddenly cut off from a government benefit that helped them pay for his daughter’s prohibitive medical expenses.
Grace Wood, 11, has a rare genetic disease called DiGeorge syndrome that causes heart and lung problems. Her health costs are a financial struggle for the family. Special dietary requirements and drugs can cost upwards of $2,000 a month. Private insurance only goes so far.
In April, Wood, who works for Pepsico Foods Canada, says the family suddenly lost the $410 monthly cheque they received under the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) program, an income-based program intended to help low- to moderate-income families. The cut-off for eligibility for a family of four is $62,641.
The Woods’ family income is $64,425.
The benefit was also based on the severity of the child’s illness and the extraordinary expenses faced by the family, but that doesn’t seem to apply any more, Wood said.
“We qualified up until April of this year,” he told a Queen’s Park news conference yesterday.
“In April this year, that changed when we were informed our income precluded eligibility. There was no discussion of extraordinary expenses or how disabled Grace had become or what her medical needs were going to be in the coming months,” Wood added.
Next month, Wood and Grace will fly to Edmonton for a heart valve replacement procedure. Grace had her first open heart surgery at 14 months of age and she’s had 24 heart procedures to keep her arteries open.
Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews said the program is designed to help only low- to moderate-income families for kids with severe disabilities.
There is a slow phase-out of financial support as income rises to the cap, she said.
“The way the program is portrayed is you get $410 a month, then nothing. It doesn’t work that way,” Matthews said.
“This is a program designed to support families with financial challenges as well as a child with disabilities.”
The Liberals have increased spending on the program from $63 million to $90 million and as a result, 5,000 more disabled children are being helped.
“This is a program we continue to invest in,” said Matthews. “Is it enough? Should it be more? Those are the decisions we struggle with every year at budget time.”
“The government should acknowledge their programs need to be updated and overhauled,” New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath said yesterday.
< http://www.healthzone.ca/health/articlePrint/673911 >.