Ill. lawmaker wants care for low-income stroke patients

Low-income stroke patients on Medicaid in Illinois are offered just four sessions with a rehabilitation specialist, far too little therapy to allow them to make a strong recovery, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said in calling for a better standard of care.

The Republican from Highland Park, who suffered a stroke in January 2012, told the (Springfield) State Journal-Register in an interview that he's working on legislation to change that and to promote what he calls "the stroke agenda."

"I want to set a national standard that moves the country on the way to the opportunities that I had to recover," Kirk told the newspaper Thursday while in town to attend Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair.

Kirk estimated he underwent 50 rehabilitation sessions after his stroke, which left his left arm and leg partially paralyzed.

"The problem is, if you have no insurance and you're low-income and you're on Medicaid in Illinois, if you suffer a stroke, you only go to a rehab specialist four times," the senator said. "That means you're not going to really improve very much."

Kirk went through months of intense physical and speech rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and was able to return to work in Washington a year later.

During his recovery, Kirk released videos showing the kind of care he was getting. He also took part in experimental therapy through which he had logged almost 15 miles of walking and 145 flights of stairs.

In November, Kirk even climbed 37 floors of stairs inside Chicago's Willis Tower as part of an RIC fundraiser. One of his therapists called it "remarkable progress."

Asked about the costs of the extra medical care he is seeking for low-income patients, Kirk suggested that better rehabilitation could ultimately help pay for itself by allowing patients to return to work and hence pay taxes.

"I think we can set a national goal of getting stroke patients back to work," Kirk explained.

He said he wants the Congressional Budget Office to estimate how much extra tax revenue that would generate.



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