Texas courts to decide funds for child therapy

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Wednesday afternoon, a three judge panel heard arguments to speed up cuts to therapy rates after lawmakers decided last fall that the state pays too much.

In 2015, lawmakers discovered the state pays much more for Medicaid speech and physical therapy compared to other states. In their two-year budget, the state decided to pay less for the services by a total of $50 million each year. The Republican leadership ordered the Health and Human Service Commission to implement the rate reductions without forcing providers to drop their clients.

Late last year, an uproar from therapists and families delayed the action. They sued the state and a district judge placed an injunction on the rate reductions. The state appealed and made its case Wednesday for the reductions. The trial to determine whether or not these cuts are legal takes place at the end of April.

Running the non-profit Any Baby Can, Andy Miller knows every dollar counts.

“Really the cuts are jeopardizing our ability to run a sustainable program for some of the children who need it the most in our community,” said Miller.

Any Baby Can provides physical, occupational and speech therapy for kids with special needs or serious illness. They serve 240 children a year for their early childhood intervention program. Reducing medicaid rates would take away $200,000.

“The risk is, there could be programs across the state that actually close their doors because they’re no longer able to provide the services,” said Miller.

If the cuts go through, they’ll have to fill that hole with private donations, which any non-profit will tell you, comes and goes.

The state has always argued that other providers will step up to provide these services. State lawyers argue that a judge has no power to stop these cuts. It was a decision for lawmakers and they made their decision.

Texas Assistant Solicitor General Kristofer Monson told Edgar Walters with our media partners the Texas Tribune that state officials, “followed the rules that you follow when the Legislature cuts Medicaid appropriations,” and “no Texas court has jurisdiction to tell the Legislature that it has to appropriate more money in order to ensure access to care for Medicaid.”

A major Medicaid provider for the state, Superior, announced Tuesday they would begin lowering their rates but said it would not impact care.

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