'I kept telling them to try again'

Monday, April 30, 2007

When clinicians and providers of complex rehab think about their difficulties with Florida Medicaid, Morgan Kelly, a 9-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy, comes to mind.
For more than two years, the clinicians at Tampa Shriners Hospital for Children pleaded with Medicaid officials to approve and pay for a new power wheelchair that would allow Kelly to do everyday things like eat a meal with her family at the dining room table.
"I kept telling (the clinicians) to try again--I don't know how many letters they wrote," said Angela Floyd, Kelly's mother. "Medicaid would suggest least-costly alternatives, but I didn't want to just accept whatever they were willing to give. I wanted Morgan to get what the clinicians--the experts--said she needed."
Kelly received her new wheelchair March 22 at an event named in her honor: the Morgan Kelly Medicaid Progress Conference. The daylong event at the Paradise Lakes Community in Mulberry, Fla., also featured a brainstorming session on how to improve Medicaid services for people with disabilities. Several disability organizations, including the Disability Relations Group, sponsored the event.
Floyd said efforts to get Kelly a new wheelchair accelerated after she began turning the heads of legislators, including Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla.
"Morgan asked me one day, 'Why won't Medicaid give me my new chair?' and I said, 'Politics,'" Floyd said. "A light bulb went off. I began calling them, and Morgan even e-mailed Putnam's office through a Kid's Page on his Web site. He wrote her back."
Floyd also "called and talked to anyone in the governor's office who would hear my story."
The wheelchair, complete with power tilt and seat elevator, couldn't have come at a better time, Floyd said: Kelly was scheduled for spinal fusion and hip realignment last month.
"We were ready to go to court," she said. "I wasn't afraid to be the squeaky wheel; I fell off the car a long time ago."