CHICAGO (CBS) — For months, the CBS 2 Investigators have been exposing a problem for some of the sickest kids in northwest Indiana.
Insurance rules mean most of their families have to drive hours to get access to care. But that might be changing.READ MORE: Gov. Pritzker Activates National Guard To Assist Chicago Police Ahead Of Derek Chauvin Trial Verdict
CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has an update.
For years, lawmakers have tried to fix the Medicaid rules to make it easier for sick kids in northwest Indiana to get treated at much closer Chicago Hospitals. But finally there’s a breakthrough
Two-year-old Elena Darnell can’t speak. She also can’t quite breathe on her own.
But she can make music.
Something her mom Jessica couldn’t imagine when she was born two years ago.
She was not alive when she was born. They brought her back they had to resuscitate her three times,” said Jessica Darnell, whose family uses Indiana Medicaid. “So, definitely a blessing.
Elena’s family lives in Merrillville, Indiana about 45 minutes from her specialists in Chicago who have treated her since she was born. But the family was told that would have to change.READ MORE: Lawyers, Community Leaders Calling On Department Of Justice To Investigate Death Of Adam Toledo
“They’re like ‘well we don’t take Indiana Medicaid. They don’t pay the same reimbursement rates so you’ll have to go somewhere else.'” said Darnell.
Indiana’s current Medicaid rules mean that Elena’s treatment would be covered at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
The only problem: it’s 150 miles away.
Indianapolis is also the only option for East Chicago mom Kourtnei Hamer and her three-year-old daughter Journei, who also suffers from a range of heart and neurological problems.
Several bills have been introduced to try to fix it. But none of them passed. The latest was in 2019, when Elena’s mom testified in support.
But it’s looking like 2021 will change all of that.
The bill passed out of the House in February and just this week cleared the Senate. Indiana State Senator and sponsor Mike Bohacek tells me its the culmination of two long years of work.
“She will have more opportunities and options and will be able to kind of go wherever we feel fits for her,” Darnell said. “And that would be a huge blessing.”MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Winter Conditions Return; Rain, Snow Possible
The bill hasn’t crossed the finish line quite yet but its close. It will go through an amendment process and then to the governor’s desk to sign.