July 24, 2015      4:27 PM
Uncertain outcomes plague debate over big cuts to Medicaid therapy rates
“I don’t know why they think it’s necessary, in a budget surplus to do this. They’re cutting $150 million from one industry. I don’t know any industry that could withstand that reduction.”
to slash what the state pays physical therapists who treat children with severe
disabilities could devastate the industry and put Texas at risk of violating
federal law, advocates and lawmakers say. Major stakeholders also claim they’ve
been wrongly excluded from the rate-setting process, but state officials insist
nothing is final yet and public comment remains welcome.
comments have been plentiful since the state Health and Human Services
Commission published the new Medicaid reimbursement rates earlier
this month. The proposed rates would slash payments for physical, occupational
and speech therapy by 25 to 90 percent starting in September, a financial blow
many therapy providers say they won’t survive.
Monday, more than 180 stakeholders took advantage of their first and likely
only chance to testify in front of the agency before the rates are finalized no
later than August 10th. For seven hours, parents, providers and patient
advocates begged HHSC not to implement the plan, which would satisfy a
cost-containment rider in the new state budget by cutting general revenue for
Medicaid Acute Care Therapy Program by $150 million over the next two
years. In doing so, the state would also surrender $200 million in federal
money, reducing the total funds for Medicaid therapy by more than half.
year, the program provided medically necessary therapy for more than 440,000 people
with severe disabilities. About 90,000 of those served were elderly Texans with
progressive diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. But the vast majority—almost
350,000 patients—were children with birth defects or genetic disorders or
infants who were born dangerously premature. Advocates estimate that if the
rates are adopted, 60,000 to 70,000 children will lose access to treatment.
By Emily DePrang