Kids like Conner are counting on Oklahoma budget deal - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Kids like Conner are counting on Oklahoma budget deal

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Conner McDougall / KTEN Conner McDougall / KTEN

ARDMORE, OK -- Oklahoma lawmakers are making cuts that will affect people here in Texoma.

Less money for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority could mean trouble for Conner McDougall and his Ardmore family.

Conner McDougall is the the face of the health care crisis facing a budget-conscious Oklahoma.

Conner was injured in a car wreck when he was 18 months old, and has been on SoonerCare ever since. But budget cuts by Oklahoma lawmakers could jeopardize his health insurance.

Right now, there is only one company left in Oklahoma providing at-home ventilators. Further budget cuts could mean that company closes its doors; and that would shut down options for Conner's family.

"We either place Conner in a nursing home -- which I'm not going to allow to happen --  or we have to move out of state," said Sonja Robbin Hunter, his mom. "This is our home. We don't want that to happen."

Conner McDougall and his mom, Sonja Robbin Hunter

At the Oklahoma State Capitol, lawmakers are working around the clock as the state faces a budget shortfall for the third consecutive year.

This time, time they have $878 million less to work with, and that means cuts must be made.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority could bear some of that burden. That's the agency which provides Conner's SoonerCare coverage.

"So we'll have less providers that will be doing the services," said State Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore). "I think it's just not the right thing to do in Oklahoma, and we need to do what's right for our citizens, and letting this thing be just again is not the right thing -- especially when it comes to a lot of these areas like health care."

Sonja Hunter and her family spent several days in Oklahoma City talking to lawmakers about how proposed OHCA budget cuts would affect their family.

Lawmakers also met with Conner -- who, his mom said -- is one of 680 Oklahoma youngsters who use ventilators at home. She contends that the cost of keeping Conner at home is way cheaper than having him in a hospital or a nursing home.

"They really need to come together and figure out and put politics aside," Hunter said. "What can we do to make sure the elderly and the disabled of our state are taken care of?"

Conner is dependent on a ventilator for several hours each day, but his family is holding out hope that he will eventually make a full recovery. And that means he would need to maintain his current health insurance.

"I will vote 'no' on any budget that cuts in those areas," Ownbey said. "We cannot afford any more cuts, and a lot of members who have been here for a long time know that. So we are going to do what it takes; we'll stay here for as long as it takes to make sure that doesn't happen."

"In my opinion, it's very important that they put differences aside, politically-wise, and come up with a solution on how to fix this issue," Hunter added.

Conner loves superhero action figures; Superman is his favorite.

Right now, he needs a real-life superhero at the Oklahoma Capitol to fight for his health care insurance.