SEATTLE - Jackie Mauritzen relies on nutritional supplement like Ensure to keep her weight up. She is developmentally disabled and non-verbal, and she has no family and no money. She relies on her legal guardian to make decisions for her and she relies on Medicaid and DSHS to provide for her.
But the state budget shortfall has forced DSHS to make significant cuts in the state Medicaid oral nutrition program. For Jackie, that means that starting July 1, the Ensure supplement she needs three times a day won't be covered.
"The doctor prescribed it, it's something that they need, it's not something that's a choice. So if it's something that they need, how can we not cover it?" said caregiver Karen Adams.
DSHS says the cost-cutting move will save $3.2 million a year. It's part of a $13 million reduction in medical supply spending mandated by the legislature.
"It was a very difficult assignment and we still struggle with it and hope we did the right thing," said Gail Kreiger, Chief of Medical Benefits and Clinical Review for DSHS.
Kreiger said the state is not required to provide nutritional supplements like Ensure.
"It's a food product and this is healthcare benefits. We don't cover food products in a healthcare benefit package," she said.
The Ensure comes at a cost roughly $200 a month for Jackie Murzon, who needs to drink three cans a day. What will happen without it?
"We would have to get really creative in ways of increasing her calories and making sure she gets all the nutrition she needs," said Adams.
DSHS officials say those who rely on nutritional supplements can apply for an exemption. They also encourage those with access to food stamps to use them to buy the Ensure.