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Monday, March 14, 2011

Medicaid Waiver in Montana

Previous posts have dealt with state Medicaid waivers. The Billings Gazette reports on Matt and Beki Wald, who have taken advantage of Montana's waiver.

As money concerns were mounting, the Walds heard of a new program that the Montana Department of Health and Human Services was launching called Children's Autism Waiver. The program was prompted by an "explosion" of calls to DPHHS from "parents in crisis," Jeff Sturm, the developmental disability program director for DPHHS. The number of calls run parallel to what is happening across the country. An estimated 1.5 million Americans are affected by autism, according to the Autism Society of America.

To be eligible for the program, a child must be between 15 months and 5 years old. The service includes 20 to 25 hours per week of intensive in-home rehabilitation for three years by a trained provider.

The program, started in 2009, serves 50 children with autism throughout the state at a cost of $40,000 per year per child. The $2 million program is funded with a combination of $600,000 from the state's general fund and federal money.

When the program began, the recipients were chosen by lottery.

Beki was on her way to pick up one of her older sons from school when her cell phone rang. She had literally won the lottery.

"I pulled over to the side of the road and started crying," she said. "We were ready to drop Kannin's occupational therapy because money was becoming an object."

Waiver services also include occupational, physical and speech therapy, and transportation among other goods and services. For Kannin, other goods and services include diapers, as he is not yet toilet-trained. The waiver also helped the Walds purchase a trampoline so he could jump and gain balance.