Advocates fear looming Medicaid cuts for special needs kids

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Unless an injunction granted this week by the Texas Supreme Court remains in place the consequences of cost cutting in Austin are about to come crushing down on tens of thousands of Texas families.

Lawmakers reduced Medicaid funding for pediatric special needs care by $350 million  - money that paid for speech therapy, occupational therapy and a whole slate of early interventions.

Payments to providers will drop an estimated 25 percent because legislators say therapists in Texas have been overpaid.

"We are doing it at bare bones now. People coming out of school want to make money and they are going to where the money is. They are not going to want to come help these kids," said Michael Pearson, a highly regarded therapist at Kid's Developmental Clinic.

Pearson says the suggestion that providers in Texas will deliver the same quantity and quality of services for less money is a fantasy.

"We work very hard to do that with compassion, concern and dignity. You are going to lose a lot of that when you take that money away," said Pearson.

As providers scale back financially unsustainable operations some believe upwards of 60,000 Texas kids on Medicaid will lose access to therapy. It's anticipated suffering and developmental neglect that legal advocates like Disability Rights Texas will be watching closely.

"Our fear is that children are not going to get enough services," said Dustin Rynders, an attorney with DRT.

Rynders says he's troubled by news three key providers have already ceased serving deeply at risk Texas kids. If the trend continues, litigation against the state will likely follow.

"When we talk about these therapies for very young children the reason they are so essential is they keep people from needing more intense disability services down the road," said Rynders.