Julie Chang at The Austin American-Statesman:
“We talk to hundreds of families every year and a large majority of them need access to ABA therapy,” said Suzanne Potts, executive director of the Autism Society of Texas. “If they’re a Medicaid family, it’s even more disheartening to have to tell them there’s nothing for them. They have to choose between paying their bills and paying for therapy for their child.”
Some of these same Texas children are also blocked from some therapy services for children with disabilities, after deep cuts in health care spending by the Republican-dominated Legislature in recent years.
About 22,000 Texas children with autism are covered by Medicaid. A small number of families are paying for the therapy at full cost, which typically ranges from $50 to $100 per hour. An additional 700 families or so are in a state autism program that offers the therapy at little to no cost to families but at a level far below the recommended 25 to 40 hours a week.
Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said that, given the high cost of applied behavior analysis therapy, the agency needs the Legislature to approve money to fund it through Medicaid.
Disability Rights Texas and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid sued Texas on behalf of three San Antonio boys with autism last December. Under a settlement reached this month, the children in the case can receive applied behavior analysis therapy for at least two years, and the state avoided a ruling that could have required Texas Medicaid to offer the therapy to everyone who needs it, according to Peter Hofer, an attorney for Disability Rights Texas.