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Couple's suffering reveals disability lapses

The high costs of healthcare are proving to be increasingly overwhelming for older couples throughout the nation, many of who must choose between food and medical equipment. Even those receiving Social Security Disability payments are feeling the pinch because of the skyrocketing price of medical care, which has left an entire population of older adults with few healthcare options.

One out-of-state couple's story illustrates just how dire the situation has become for many Americans, including many in the Pittsburgh area.

The couple was forced to choose between rent, food and medical supplies. As a result, they went with very little to eat for months as the woman was nursed back to health. Both became disabled despite their best efforts to make an honest living and they say they are struggling to get by on the $1,700 they get from Social Security payments.

Although the woman's husband can receive medical care at veterans' facilities, she has been left to depend on Medicaid. As a result, fewer physicians will treat her severe health problems, which began about two years ago. Doctors discovered that the woman's constant vomiting was caused by her stomach being sucked into her esophagus. Three surgeries failed to correct the problem, so the couple had to visit a highly sought-after specialist to finally resolve the issue.

The woman stopped vomiting, but the skin surrounding her incision became infected, and Medicaid refused to pay for additional treatment. She was left with a gaping wound measuring seven inches by three inches, she says, which would only be paid for if she entered a nursing home. She is only 64.

Instead of entering a nursing home, where she might have lost her disability benefits, the woman elected to stay at home under her husband's care. He changed her bandages twice a day for months and the couple spent more than $500 on gauze and other treatment supplies.

After the incident was publicized, Medicaid officials contacted the couple to inform them about a waiver that could potentially pay for the woman's treatment. That seems to have come too late, though, after the pair has already spent months suffering because of government missteps.

Source: Middletown Journal, "Couple's health issues forcing difficult choices," Ed Richter, June 2, 2012

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