Therapists for poor and foster kids brace for lowered rates

Lawmakers plan to make cuts that could negatively affect foster families and low income people (KXAN Photo)
Lawmakers plan to make cuts that could negatively affect foster families and low income people (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas lawmakers are moving forward with plans to save taxpayers $350 million. But many say losing that money will hurt low income families and foster children. The state will now pay less for many physical therapists.

Deven Shelby came to the world two months early. His first days on earth were in the neonatal intensive care unit; oxygen pumping into his lungs, a feeding tube keeping him alive, the right side of his body immobile.

“Too early, way too early. He’s my little fighter,” said his mother Patricia Shelby. But this mom knows what can happen in only a few months, with help from a therapist.

“They’re just surviving at first,” said therapist for the non-profit Any Baby Can, Genelle Mills.

She is slowly teaching Deven to do things many take for granted. It looks like playing but he’s learning how to scoop up food, control his right hand, and pick up small items to put them into larger ones.

“All of these tools that we’re presenting him with, it teaches him how to use his wrist in order to feed himself,” said Mills.

Our tax dollars pay for this non-proft work. Many protested the cuts, saying tens of thousands of kids could lose services if the state moved forward. For now they wait to see what will happen. Patricia is just happy Deven is getting help when he can. Like any mother, she hopes for the best.

“I know he’ll be walking. He’ll walk on his own time. He probably can walk now he’s just being lazy,” said Shelby.

Devin was part of Any Baby Can’s Early Childhood Intervention Program. The non-profit serves 550 clients a year. Eighty percent of those are on Medicaid. The CEO estimates that non-profit will lose $200,000 when the cuts take effect.

However, one of the state’s largest Medicaid providers says care would not be jeopardized. In fact, Superior HealthPlan has independently lowered rates. Superior’s lawyers told a court judge the company was “absolutely convinced” there will be adequate access to care. More than 690,000 Texans under 21 are enrolled through Superior.

A judge tossed out the lawsuit trying to block the state’s cuts. Now, The state health and human services commission is working with the attorney general to decide when the lowered payments go out.

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