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Published: Friday, 1/3/2003

Options for the disabled

OHIO families with disabled members will finally benefit from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lets them care for disabled loved ones at home, and do so with the aid of up to $5,000 annually in financial help from Medicaid, offering caregivers some relief.

Until now, Medicaid families couldn't bother to weigh options for caring for a disabled member. They simply didn't have any. They could care for the disabled family member at home without help from Medicaid. Or they could put the person in a long-term nursing care facility, the only other way to get Medicaid benefits.

Now, many will try to take advantage of the new state plan. The state will begin enrolling 3,000 families that qualify for the program this coming spring. By the third year of the program, the state expects to have enrolled 6,000 families.

The money won't only help families who already care for disabled loved ones at home. It will also let families bring disabled loved ones home from long-term facilities.

The funds can be used to hire a home assistant for a limited time to help with the disabled person, or for transportation. Or, if the family needs to be away, the funding will pay for a disabled person's temporary care elsewhere. The 1999 Supreme Court decision also allows the disabled to get care at small community-based sites instead of large ones.

Gov. Bob Taft correctly points out that the new waiver gives families flexibility. All those who qualify for the program should be pleased, especially aging parents who care for a disabled child.

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