Late last week, the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit about whether decreasing Medicaid reimbursements for programs providing therapies to infants and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays in Texas is legal, which means cuts are likely imminent.
Advocates say this means these programs are going to be harder to come by if lawmakers don’t act.
As of now, state officials can’t say exactly when these cuts will go into effect. A spokesperson with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission says they’re working with the Texas Attorney General’s office to figure out when the cuts to reimbursement rates for acute therapy will be implemented.
In the meantime, advocates are hoping state lawmakers will step in and reverse these cuts, but the prospects of that are mixed.
On the one hand, some lawmakers are concerned these cuts will make it harder for babies who need these services to get them. But then there are lawmakers, like Republican State Senator Jane Nelson, who say the cuts won’t have an impact on services.
“Every child who is eligible under Medicaid to receive these services, will continue to receive these services,” Nelson said during an interim state Senate hearing earlier this month.
However, child welfare advocates say Nelson is wrong.
Stephanie Rubin with Texans Care for Children says about a third of those cuts have been absorbed by Managed Care contracts in the state and services are already harder to come by.
“The impact has already occurred and certainly, if the rest of the rate cuts go through, children and families will be heartbroken and not know where to turn,” she says.
Rubin says advocates and parents were hoping the courts would stop the cuts, but news last week that the state’s high court won’t hear the case dashed those hopes.
“Parents of kids with disabilities are disappointed, they are outraged and they are fearful. They count on these therapies and supports for their kids to eat, to walk,” Rubin explains.
Rubin says she’s heard from three Early Childhood Intervention programs that say they won’t provide these services next year because they won’t be able to afford them.
“We expect other ECI agencies, non-profit agencies, like Any Baby Can or Easter Seals, to honestly look at the budgets and determine whether it’s fiscally even possible to stay in the program, which is sad,” she says. “They are very effective community partners and families rely on all of them.”
There is one other possible check on these rate cuts, though. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is the state’s federal partner in the Medicaid program, has yet to weigh in on the state’s plan.
A spokesperson for the agency says they asked state officials for more information earlier this month. According to CMS, once the state responds, they have “90 days to make a decision to either approve or disapprove the state’s request.”