Parents vowing to fight changes in state Medicaid system

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Upcoming changes to the state’s Medicaid system could pose some major challenges for children dealing with rare and complicated medical illnesses.

Parents are vowing to fight back. On Tuesday and Wednesday, parents testified in front of the state’s Health and Human Services committee, urging lawmakers not to change the Medicaid system.

The state has 5,600 medically-fragile children. Many of them were born with congenital birth issues and rely heavily on Medicaid to see doctors and visit highly-trained specialists.

In November, the state will launch its STAR kids program. It requires children who are 20-years-old and younger to switch to a managed care program. The program will provide benefits like prescription drugs, medical equipment and a list of doctors and specialists.

The state says STAR kids will save money flowing from its cash-strapped Medicaid system, which has a $3.5 billion dollar shortfall.

But, parents say many of the doctors they visit aren’t in the system. They fear their children will lose the services of a slew of doctors and specialists with whom they have already built strong relationships.

“They don’t understand who our children are,” said Parent Hannah Mehta, of lawmakers who support the change. “They don’t understand why it’s necessary for them to access this program. These are children who in other circumstances would be placed in institutions.”

Some parents told lawmakers without the former Medicaid system, they would miss out on specialized equipment, as well.

“He was recently hospitalized and we have a whole host of medical supplies that we take every month and that we need,” said Parent Adrienne Trigg. “And, those supplies have not been approved. We’ve had to go back to doctors’s offices to just get the supplies we need on a daily basis because we can’t get those provided to us.”

Roughly 80 percent of Medicaid patients in Texas are already in a managed care system.

Lawmakers said the two-day hearing is only an opportunity to get more information for the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.

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