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‘Definitely a blessing’: Indiana families can soon get Chicago medical services for their children

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CHICAGO (UKTN) – For months, UKTN 2 investigators have denounced a problem for some of Northwest Indiana’s sickest children.

Insurance rules mean most of their families have to drive hours to access care. But that could change.

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UKTN 2 investigator Megan Hickey has an update.

For years, lawmakers have tried to correct Medicaid rules to allow sick children in Northwest Indiana to seek treatment in hospitals much closer to Chicago. But finally there is a breakthrough

Two-year-old Elena Darnell cannot speak. She also cannot breathe on her own.

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But she can make music.

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Something her mother 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 live in Merrillville, Indiana, about 45 minutes from her Chicago specialists who have been caring for her since birth. But the family was told that should change.

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“They’re like, ‘well, we’re not taking Indiana Medicaid. They don’t pay the same refund rates so you’ll have to go somewhere else, ”Darnell said.

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Indiana’s current Medicaid rules mean Elena’s treatment would be covered at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

The only problem: it’s 250 km away.

Indianapolis is also the only option for East Chicago mom Kourtnei Hamer and three-year-old daughter Journei, who also suffers from various heart and neurological conditions.

Several bills have been introduced in an attempt to resolve this problem. But none of them succeeded. The most recent was in 2019, when Elena’s mother testified in favor.

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But it looks like 2021 will change all that.

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The bill passed the House in February and this week it purged the Senate. Indiana Senator and State Sponsor Mike Bohacek tells me this is the culmination of two long years of hard work.

“She will have more opportunities and options and can kind of go where we want to go,” Darnell said. “And that would be a huge blessing.”

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Bill hasn’t crossed the finish line yet but it’s close. It will go through an amendment process and then be signed by the governor’s office.

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