Activists fight for a principle

Excerpted from the State Journal Register in Springfield, IL July 25, 2004

by Dave Bakke

Kathy Conour and Diana Braun love to travel. They have been abroad and they have gone around the country, both for pleasure and to attend association meetings for the rights of the disabled, which they both are. But because of an unjust Medicare regulation, their traveling days are in jeopardy.
They are under a sort of home confinement, as if they were criminals.

Their predicament began in March, when they were traveling to a national meeting in Boston to discuss issues relating to persons with disabilities. En route, Kathy broke her hip after boarding an Amtrak train in Chicago. In Boston, they spent 48 hours in the emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The ordeal cost them more than $10,000. They have hired an attorney in an effort to get compensation from Amtrak. But the most unfair result, as Kathy and Diana see it, is Medicare’s insistence that they no longer travel. If they do, Medicare will not pay for the visiting nurse that comes to their home. Basically, Medicare is saying that if we are covering your home health care, you must be home bound.

Many people are affected by Medicare’s no-travel rule. That’s why it would cost so much is Congress were to change it. However, since Medicare’s budget is $250 billion, we’re talking about a 1 percent bump. I can think of worse ways the government is spending billions than to use it to help people with disabilities live better lives.

Kathy wrote that there is a wider issue here.
“I am fighting for a principle,” she wrote. It’s called freedom.