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Cutbacks hurt aid for cystic fibrosis

At least 60 Floridians with a killer lung disease will be hurt by the state's tight budget as they lose coverage for treatment. Adults with cystic fibrosis typically have gotten services from the state's Children's Medical Services program if they can't get private insurance. But that will change starting next month.

"Why didn't they just send the letter with a gun so we could shoot ourselves? It would be quicker," James Hilb, 24, told his mother, Betty Hewell of St. Petersburg.

"I feel they put me on death row," said Bob Jordan, 29, of Largo. "I don't have any coverage at all and I need surgery. There's no way I can have it now. My medicine and all, I can't even afford that."

"We feel badly about this. But we only have so much money," said Mittie Moffitt, a supervisor with the Children's Medical Services, which pays for some or all medical costs for financially qualified children with serious diseases.

Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease. Those who have the disease are plagued with a sticky, thick mucus that clogs their lungs and damages other body organs such as the pancreas.

"Cystic fibrosis patients 20 years ago didn't live to be 5," said Joanie Zahar, the coordinator of the All Children's Hospital cystic fibrosis program in St. Petersburg.

"Ten years ago, maybe until their 18th birthday. Now they're living beyond age 30."

A typical adult with cystic fibrosis gets respiratory therapy twice daily, usually professionally administered at home. The patient takes various medicines, including an aerosol treatment of saline solution and antibiotics to fight lung infections, Zahar said.