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Mom testifies about how the impasse almost killed her baby

Thursday, Mar 23, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Remember the story last month about a state employee whose infant son required on oxygen machine to live, but the state insurance program didn’t pay the provider and the county sheriffs showed up to repossess the machine? The machine wasn’t repossessed (I’m told the deputies called in to headquarters and were told to get the heck out of there) and a new oxygen machine provider was found.

Anyway, that mom, Kenea Williams, testified yesterday at a House committee hearing and she brought her little son Kobe with her. Jordan Abudayyeh filed this report

Lawmakers in the House appropriation committee heard requests Wednesday from state agencies focusing on numbers and cents.

But for the people stuck in the middle of the budget crisis, the politics are personal.

Kobe Williams is 15-months-old and has a condition that leaves him unable to breathe without his oxygen tank.
“Kobe has bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which he needs and requires treatment of oxygen supplementation,” Kenea Williams, Kobe’s mother, said.

Kobe’s mother is a state worker who covers his medical expenses under her state healthcare plan.

“I pay my premiums,” Williams said. “I do my part. Now I feel like the state needs to do their part. They need to pay their bills.”

Without a budget, the state can’t pay all of its bills on time and companies are cutting off patients on the state health plan.

After pleading by Kenea, she says they left the equipment until she could get everything from another provider.

But that provider is 50 miles away from her home and she said she fears the same thing will happen again.

“Eventually, with them losing payment we will lose them also, and I’m out of options,” Williams said.

* More from WCIA

Williams did not have a lot of options. Hundreds of providers around the state leave notices on doors telling customers they cannot accept some payments or they have to pay up-front.

It’s making people, like Williams, scramble for solutions.

“A struggle. I mean, it was an embarrassment.”

Williams eventually found another company to help her son continue to breathe, but the fear of this happening again, haunts her.

Williams and her son made the trip to the Capitol Wednesday to share their story with lawmakers. She says she hopes she made an impact to speed up the process for others in similar situations.

I hope so, too, but I really doubt it.

* Our good friend Dave Dahl was also at the hearing yesterday and he graciously sent me this raw audio of Ms. Williams’ testimony


  1. - @MisterJayEm - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:01 am:

    Used to be, such things didn’t happen in this state.

    – MrJM

  2. - Flynn's mom - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:01 am:

    That is absolutely heartbreaking.I would really like to know what the governors response is to this little boys situation.

  3. - Flynn's mom - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:02 am:

    Heartbreaking. When will this nonsense end. There are peoples lives at stake.

  4. - Thoughts Matter - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:11 am:

    We’ve seen his indirect response…

    Attempted to take Mungers salary out of two different underfunded healthcare accounts, one for state employees, one for Medicaid. Revised one account after he got caught.

    Paid 112 million dollars over the last two years for IT improvements and wants 900 million. Had a pretty press conference to announce that.

    Just laid off 124 nurses so he could outsource their jobs.

    Should I go on?

  5. - Ihatepolitics - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:12 am:

    The governors response would be “we have to be competitive before we can be compassionate”.

  6. - Honeybear - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:12 am:

    Honestly why did it even have to get to this point? It should be illegal to be forced to pay premiums and yet my providers aren’t paid. I guess it’s okay for Right to Work people to sue when they have to pay fair share but are getting representation but not okay to sue when Union folks are forced to pay premiums but increasing are refused service. It took me 6 months and a threatening phone call before I could get my one teen into to see the dermatologist. I get collection calls everyday from the folks the orthodontist sold the state debt too. Every day

  7. - Reality Check - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    It’s the mom’s union that Rauner wants to kill. Her baby is just collateral damage.

  8. - Swift - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    Pretty brave step for a young state employee and a nice reminder that sometimes it the little person who can make the biggest waves.

  9. - Flynn's mom - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    Wasn’t something filed in court last year regarding state workers and their health insurance?

  10. - Cindy Lou - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:20 am:

    And the governor seems to think state workers should pay and pay lots more in premiums. What *we* will end up getting is no care. There will either be no one wanting to service us without upfront payment, or *we* won’t be able to afford the higher premium and upfront cost both.

    But yeah, *we* got Cadillac insurance (rolls eyes)…we just won’t be able to access the care.

    What was attempted on this small child shouldn’t be happening to anyone, but especially not to someone who has coverage and whose parent pays their premiums on time and in full.

  11. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    Health insurance is part of the employment contract. Not paying the insurance premiums is breaking the contract.

    I am so old fashioned that I think contracts should be honored.

  12. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    Thank God for the common sense and decency of the sheriffs department.

    That baby should have had the foresight to be a Deloite IT consultant and the Frat Boys and Wingman would have fought like heck to expedite payment.

    We can’t afford respiration if we’re not competive.

    Baby Breathers get excited about term limits.

    A property tax freeze will grow that baby to breath on its own.

    Did I tell you I give money to charities? That’s effin golden when you’re squeezing the beast.

    See you in church.

  13. - Anon221 - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    Wonder what Dr. Rauner thinks about this??? Any compassion there, or just crickets over the dinner table??? But, then again, Bruce doesn’t have a social agenda…

  14. - Annonin' - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    “Huh” said BigBrain when advised of the crisis.
    “Don’t they understand I need a 1,000 families of injured workers evicted before I conclude the prosperity of IL is sufficiently better.”

  15. - A Parent - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:32 am:

    I know they were just “doing their job” but how could you sleep at night if your job was repossessing oxygen tanks and thus killing a small child?

  16. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:36 am:

    His political consultants and anti-union campaign didn’t plan for any real world consequences.

    Death is sad, but Right To Work is more important to Bruce Rauner.

  17. - Skeptical - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:43 am:

    Crisis creates leverage - you want oxygen, I want term limits. Rauner won’t lose any sleep over this one.

  18. - illini - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:54 am:

    The audio was very heartbreaking and difficult to listen to.

  19. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 11:59 am:

    ===The audio was very heartbreaking and difficult to listen to. ===

    It was much harder to listen to at the hearing yesterday. Man, that was rough.

  20. - Because I Said So.... - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 12:04 pm:

    Maybe a dump question but, where does the money go that is taken from state workers pay checks for insurance coverage if providers aren’t being paid?

  21. - Earnest - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 12:06 pm:

    >That baby should have had the foresight to be a Deloite IT consultant and the Frat Boys and Wingman would have fought like heck to expedite payment

    What’s more mind-boggling…that an administration would have this priority or that the opposing political party would not have a clear, consistent, extremely powerful message highlighting this? I’d like to call it “criminal,” but that has the wrong connotations for Illinois politics.

  22. - Reality Check - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 12:17 pm:

    @Because I Said So…: where does the money go that is taken from state workers pay checks for insurance coverage if providers aren’t being paid?

    If Rauner had his way, it’d be going into Leslie Munger’s pocket.

  23. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 1:09 pm:

    –Maybe a dump question but, where does the money go that is taken from state workers pay checks for insurance coverage if providers aren’t being paid?–

    They are being paid, just very slowly because ONLY the money taken out of paychecks is being used to pay them. The state’s share is not being paid. Payments are happening it’s just there is a backlog of over 18 months because they only have a portion of the money to pay the bills with.

  24. - tobias846 - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 1:18 pm:

    Flynn’s Mom — yes, there was a class action suit filed in the Cook County Circuit Court last spring. I’ve been following it, but there have been no major developments. Class actions tend to move very slowly, and this one is no exception.

  25. - sharkette - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 2:45 pm:

    The legislators have not appropriated the funds for these vendors, & until they go to work and bring a bill to the floor, & vote & pass appropriations to pay vendors, it will continue.
    Stop blaming Rauner, blame your legislator, & blame the Comptroller for her total failure to pay those vendors who she does in fact have cash in funds that are appropriated to pay them.

  26. - don the legend - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 3:33 pm:

    sharkette: Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt

  27. - Flynn's mom - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 3:56 pm:

    @ don the legend…’re spot on!!

  28. - illini - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 4:16 pm:

    @don and Flynn - thinking exactly the same but didn’t post. Thanks

  29. - alas - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 5:04 pm:

    Mrs.Rauner - an ounce or two of prevention needed to avoid killing of little children to further your agenda of your hubby and his obscenely wealthy cronies …. hello?

  30. - alas - Thursday, Mar 23, 17 @ 5:07 pm:

    Mrs.Rauner - an ounce or two of prevention needed to avoid killing of little children to further agenda of your hubby and his obscenely wealthy cronies …. hello?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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