In The Politics of Autism, I discuss Medicaid services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as other government programs at the federal and state levels.
Of the 5 million to 6 million children with special needs estimated to be enrolled in Medicaid, 1.2 million would meet the Senate’s definition of ‘disabled,’ which relies on strict criteria to qualify for federal Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, payments. Those children must come from impoverished families who can prove they are blind or have “marked and severe functional limitations” that are fatal or will last continuously for at least a year. Under the Senate bill, the federal government would continue to pay for a portion of their medical bills without setting a financial ceiling.
That would not be the case for the majority of other children with special needs on Medicaid. They qualify because their families have low incomes, so there has been no reason for states to keep track of them separately. Under the Senate plan, the federal government would give states the same amount of Medicaid funding for those children as they would for a child without disabilities, even though that child’s health costs would likely be much higher.
“The potential consequences could be devastating,” says Sara Bachman, another researcher at the Catalyst Center. “States on their own are quite variable on the ability to support the services kids need. The federal participation in the Medicaid program is in an essential underpinning. States are really going to be in a pickle.”Uncertainty is a major theme of The Politics of Autism. The Rau article continues:
A Republican Senate aide, who was authorized to speak only on condition of anonymity, says Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and several other Republicans wanted to exempt all children with disabilities from the per capita payment limits. But bill drafters ran into a problem: Lack of information about the broad population of children with special needs on Medicaid impeded them from crafting a more expansive definition, and the Congressional Budget Office could not estimate the costs, the aide says.
“We were trying to get as many of them, if not all of them, exempted from the cap,” the aide says. “But the problem is the only good definition and the only good numbers we had were for SSI.”