Ray Hagar reports at The Reno Gazette-Journal:
Many parents of autistic children in Nevada are at odds with the state over the amount of money the state is willing to pay to fund therapy for their children through Medicaid.
Increased awareness and funding for autism has been a hallmark of the administration of Gov. Brian Sandoval and beginning Jan. 1, one-on-one, early intervention treatments are scheduled to be offered through Medicaid to more than 1,870 autistic children in Nevada.
The Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services to be offered through Medicaid have shown to be very successful in the care of autistic children, parents said.
But the state's low-ball proposal of paying an hourly rate of $29.50 for hiring and training Registered Behavioral Technicians (RBTs) who work with the children could wreck the ABA program before it begins, parents said.
"If Nevada were to set that RBT rate at 29.50 it would be the lowest in the nation," said Stephanie Hill of Las Vegas, an autism activist and parent of an autistic son.
State lawmakers debated the issue of payment to providers during the 2015 Legislature, said state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which must approve all state spending.
"I am concerned there is potential that we could have built this new program and have an inability for kids to use it because there are not enough providers," Kieckhefer. "It was an issue we talked a lot about this session – if the rate is low, we won't have enough providers."
Parents say they face a double whammy: First, the rates for the behavioral technicians are too low – especially compared to neighboring states. Second, Nevada only has about 95 registered RBTs to treat thousands of autistic children.Nevada ranks #31 in services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.