This week, state policymakers are making multiple decisions that influence whether Texas children with disabilities and developmental delays will be able to access therapies. Those decisions are reflected in:
- The 2018-2019 state budget that state legislators revealed over the weekend;
- The supplemental state budget for the remainder of 2017, which passed the Texas Senate yesterday and is now expected to go to a House-Senate conference committee; and
- The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) hearing today to consider additional therapy rate cuts.
To address the status of therapy funding and these policy decisions, Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, issued the following statement:
“Heading into this legislative session, one of the most pressing issues was ensuring that children with disabilities and developmental delays would have access to life-changing therapies. To meet that goal, the Legislature needed to reverse the 2015 Medicaid therapy rate cuts, which affect children of all ages with disabilities, and fully fund Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), which serves children under age three with disabilities and developmental delays.
“Legislators have largely failed to reverse the therapy cuts for kids with disabilities, although they one more chance left to make modest but important improvements. These decisions aren’t just about numbers. These decisions are about children who need help meeting goals that can range from learning to walk or swallow their food to communicating with their families or getting ready for elementary school.
Reversing the 2015 therapy rate cuts:
“In the final 2018-2019 budget, the Legislature took a small step forward by reversing 25 percent of the cut to therapy rates. That step certainly falls short of what children and parents had hoped legislators would accomplish.
To limit the damage of the cuts, the Legislature also needs to take steps to reverse the 2015 cuts through the supplemental state budget. The House version of the supplemental budget includes a partial restoration of funding for the remainder of 2017 and a reversal of the additional policy-driven rate reductions enacted through Rider 50 in the state budget during the 2015 legislative session. Reversing those policy-driven reductions may stop HHSC from going forward with further rate reductions that it is considering in a public meeting today. The Senate version of the supplemental budget takes no steps to address children’s therapies. The supplemental budget bill now goes to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate plans.
“We urge legislators to ensure that the final version of the supplemental budget includes the House’s therapy funding for the remainder of 2017 and the House’s provision to prevent the ongoing reductions imposed by Rider 50.
“After two years of fighting against the cuts, parents of kids with autism, speech delays, Down syndrome, and other disabilities will be watching legislators closely to see if they stand up for kids.
Funding Early Childhood Intervention (ECI):
“On the ECI front, we are disappointed that legislative leaders failed to provide the funding requested by HHSC for the 2018-2019 budget to cover the number of children expected in the program. The budget notes that HHSC will be able to request additional funding during the next two years to cover any shortfalls. We encourage ECI contractors, HHSC, and legislators to be prepared to pull that trigger as soon as necessary.
“Additionally, we appreciate that the Senate version of the supplemental budget includes $4 million to help cover ECI enrollment during the current fiscal year.”
Published by: Texans Care for Children
Author: Peter Clark