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Boomer Esiason


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Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Esiason lobbies for health care

Families suffer from high costs

By Carrie Spencer

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - As a television and radio NFL analyst and former pro football star, Boomer Esiason can afford to spend up to $50,000 a year on medical care for his son, Gunnar, who has cystic fibrosis.

But the former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback came to the capital Tuesday to lobby for about 5,000 Ohio families who have to pay thousands before getting aid from a state program that covers prescriptions and insurance co-pays for children born with serious medical conditions.

The families used to automatically qualify every year, but the state began income guidelines last July that require more out-of-pocket expenses.

Some families on modest incomes say they're facing bankruptcy or thinking about quitting a job to qualify for Medicaid, a federal-state program that pays for health care for the poor.

"We want to be sure the politicians here in the Statehouse understand how important it is to the lifeblood of these families," Esiason said.

The program cares for about 21,000 children with conditions including hemophilia, heart defects and cerebral palsy.

Overall state spending went up steadily until it took a 12 percent cut this year. Gov. Bob Taft's budget recommends another 5 percent cut starting in July, and keeping the program steady the following year.

Meanwhile, costs have skyrocketed, as expensive medications and treatments have greatly lengthened children's lives.

Parents note that a drug for cystic fibrosis, an inherited lung condition, costs $2,000 a dose - but prevents infections that can lead to hospitalization.

"We're living a medical miracle," Esiason said. "We're keeping these people alive but they need help."

Esiason said he learned of the struggles of Ohio families when doing a radio broadcast two years ago in Cleveland for a "Monday Night Football" game. He said he typically stops in local cystic fibrosis treatment centers as he travels the country.

Lawmakers who attended a news conference with Esiason said they would look in other funds within the $51 billion two-year budget to try to restore some of the support.

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