News 4 Investigates: Fighting for air -

News 4 Investigates: Fighting for air

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A mother says she had to fight to get her baby son the critical oxygen he needs to survive, all because the state of Illinois still doesn't have a budget.  Credit: KMOV A mother says she had to fight to get her baby son the critical oxygen he needs to survive, all because the state of Illinois still doesn't have a budget.  Credit: KMOV

( - One mother says her son's facing death, all because the government isn't paying its bills.

“It's just been awful, it really has,” Kenea said.

Her twin one-year-old boys were born premature, but while Kade is just fine, Kobe lags behind.  His lungs still haven't fully developed and he struggles to breathe on his own.

“It’s very scary, very, very scary,” said Kenea.

That’s why imbetween the happy noises of their big family, in their home, you can always hear the constant drone of a machine pumping critical oxygen into Kobe’s lungs, without which, he can't survive.

“Kobe would be dead or in a hospital permanently,” Williams said.

Kenea works for the state of Illinois. Like many of us, she relies on her insurance. She pays her premiums and expected that the state would pay its bills.

But she says she was wrong.

After three years, Illinois still doesn't have a budget and is now billions of dollars in debt to service provides.

Byrd-Watson, the company that supplied Kobe's oxygen machines, told Kenea they wanted Kobe’s oxygen machine back.

“She stated to me many times, we are not getting paid for your equipment,” Kenea said.

Kenea was in a panic. But the worst moment came with a bang on the door.

Marion County Sheriff's Deputies showed up at her home, the supplier at their side, demanding their equipment.

“It was a slap in the face, it was an embarrassment, I had two police cars outside my home,” Kenea said.

Her anger isn't just directed at Byrd-Watson, but at everyone in Springfield.

“I just don't understand the state getting away with this, we are talking about an infant's life at jeopardy,” said Kenea.

“Are lawmakers aware that this is truly life or death for some people?” asked Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “They do,” said Kenea’s state representative, John Cavaletto.

“Right now we are suffering and I don't like for things like that to happen,” Cavaletto said.

Cavaletto says the budget situation is complicated, requiring compromise and tough calls.

“Taxes is that the answer? Fees, bonding, that kind of thing? We are patching the problem, we aren't going to fix it,” Cavaletto said.

After explaining Kobe’s condition, the police left that day without taking the equipment. A Byrd-Watson representative told News 4 they aren't taking Illinois state insurance. The owner declined to talk on camera. Instead, they sent a statement saying, they can't comment on specific customers, but "would never put a patient's life at risk by taking back life sustaining equipment" without proof of delivery from another provider.

Kenea says they did try to take it, before she had all the parts from another provider.

She does have another supplier for Kobe's oxygen now, but she worries they too will drop out if they don't get paid.

She says her son is left fighting for air, all because of a state's failure to act.

“Something needs to be settled, before things get even worse,” Kenea said.

We heard received a message from Governor Bruce Rauner and we talked to a representative for House Speaker Michael Madigan's office for this story.

The state is still at an impasse on the budget and now they’re debating over whether to keep paying state employees at all.

Rep. Cavaletto says he would be open to a small tax increase to get a balanced budget.

Byrd-Watson later provided News 4 with another statement: 

Our business stopped accepting new orders for medical equipment directly and indirectly covered by the State of Illinois as of October 2016.  This difficult decision was reached due to the significant delay in payments from the State of Illinois to our business for those orders.  For example, we are currently receiving payment for orders filled in June of 2015, some 20 months ago.  Other providers are being forced to make the same difficult decision.

HealthLink, which provides insurance to Illinois state employees, sent the following statement:

"HealthLink continues to work with our contracted providers relative to the State of Illinois budget constraints to service our membership and the provider community.  We have been very successful when made aware by our providers their issues with not receiving payment or receiving calls from our membership with the State of Illinois that has been hearing from their providers relative to service.  While we are aware of one provider that has indicated they will no longer see Healthlink State of Illinois members due to non-payment, other providers have not notified us of them stopping service or supplies.”

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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