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In-home health care recipients file appeals after Greitens' veto; Democrats want override

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood

More than 8,000 low-income and elderly Missouri residents entirely lost in-home health care services on Saturday and another 6,500 have had their time cut in half. That’s because Gov. Eric Greitens vetoed a billlast week that would have provided $35 million for those services.

Without the services, advocates say, some of those who lost services could be forced into nursing homes or need to visit an emergency room. The vetoed money is also likely to be the focus of a lawsuit.

Greitens called the bill, which shifts unused money from several state boards and commissions to in-home health care, a “gimmick.” He also said in his veto letter that the bipartisan effort was unconstitutional, citing a Missouri Supreme Court ruling from 40 years ago striking down a similar measure.

St. Louis resident Teresa Moore, 47, is one of many appealing to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to have their in-home services restored. She has been blind for 13 years, and has diabetes and other health problems.

She said she can’t get along without her in-home assistant.

“She takes me to the grocery store, the department store, the bank,” Moore said. “She does pay my bills, reads my mail to me … she does my laundry, she cleans my home, she cooks my meals, (and) makes sure that I’m dressed appropriately.”

Moore is also unemployed, and said her assistant had helped her look presentable before going on job interviews.

“I don’t have an adequate enough income to pay for the services out of pocket,” she said. 

Steven Foelsch, 54, is a quadriplegic who lives in an assisted living facility in downtown St. Louis. He gets help six hours a day from an in-home assistant, but will now only have the help for three or four hours.

“I’m going to have to choose if I’m going to use those hours to get up in the morning or to get to bed at night,” he said. “I’m hanging on (by) my teeth as it is right now.”

Foelsch is a rehabilitation services instructor at Maryville University, and the education director for the Starkloff Disability Institute in St. Louis. Without the assistance, he said it’ll be harder to do his jobs.

Doug Landis was paralyzed from the neck down in 1975 during a high school wrestling match. He lives in Ballwin and is a professional artist, using his mouth to paint and draw. Like Foelsch, Landis will have fewer hours of in-home health care service each day.

“My wife could do my care, but she’s having some health issues right now — she has rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and lower back, and had a brain tumor removed a year ago,” he said. “I’m 6-foot-3 and weigh 200 and some-odd pounds, so I’m a big guy to be moving around.”

Landis also said he hopes Missouri lawmakers override Greitens’ veto in September, a sentiment voiced Thursday by Democratic lawmakers.

“It’s insulting to say that it’s a political game or it’s a stunt,” said Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors. “The people in this chamber, regardless of which side (of the aisle) you sit on, know they’re dealing with things that affect people’s everyday lives.”

Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, helped craft the in-home health care bill and is also pushing for an override. But she argues that the veto has hurt job opportunities in Missouri.

“We forget about the people who provided those services,” she said. “We’ve taken $24 million out of the economy over the next year to typically low-income workers.”

If the veto override fails, several former in-home health care recipients could decide to sue the state, especially those who have to move into nursing homes. Suzan Weller is assistant director of Disability Resources Association, an independent living facility in Festus.

“If the consumers are not able to reside in their own residences and be forced into an institution, (such as) a nursing home, that would be an Olmstead violation,” she said.

“Olmstead” refers to a 1999 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in which two people were forced to live in a nursing home in order to get the health care services they needed. They sued in order to receive the same services in a less restrictive environment and won.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.