Union Changes Coverage; Limits Medical Care, Rehabilitation Coverage for West Nile Virus Infected Carpenter

A Chicago carpenter may never get a chance to enjoy retirement, at least not the way he thought he would. CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports.

Chicago Southwest Side resident Jeff Walls spent 30 years as a union carpenter, but one mosquito bite and a West Nile Virus infection has changed retirement plans. His wife, Marisa Walls, must use that retirement money for medical care and rehabilitation.

Marisa Walls now spends 14-hour days caring for her husband of 30 years with the help of a home care nurse, as he continues to recover from West Nile-related encephalitis.

Walls has been a Local 141 carpenter for three decades, but his union reduced the amount of daily home nursing care for which he is eligible (from 120 days after every hospital stay to only 120 days per year). That “per year” coverage ran out this year after the union amended coverage for members. The couple now pays a home care nurse out of pocket, three days a week, to get Jeff to rehab — costing them about $6,000 a month.

The West Nile virus infections, which usually begin to increase this time of year, typically only cause mild health effects (fever and headaches) for victims under 50. However, people 50 and older are at increased risk for serious illness, such as encephalitis, meningitis with brain damage and death.

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