The Brief: State Shifts Strategy On Therapy Services Cuts
by John Reynolds, Madlin Mekelburg and Eleanor Dearman
The Big Conversation
It’s looking now like the state might not fully implement $100 million in cuts over two years to therapists providing services to children in the Medicaid program.
In a letter Thursday to Senate leaders, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor wrote that he interpreted instructions written into the state budget to mean that children should not lose access to care.
�HHSC will continue its efforts to achieve the maximum therapy rate reductions possible while maintaining adequate access to care,� Traylor wrote in the Thursday letter, as reported by the Tribune’s Edgar Walters. �Even though this direction will not result in the full amount of savings identified in Rider 50 and will result in spending levels above appropriations, I am confident that the state can achieve meaningful Medicaid savings, while preserving adequate access to care.�
This interpretation, as Walters noted, runs counter to what the state’s lawyers said in court in a legal challenge to those rate cuts. They said then that Traylor was obligated to make the full cuts called for in the budget.
The court challenge was brought by therapy providers who feared the rate cuts would cause many of them to go out of business and by parents who feared losing access to services. Increasingly, lawmakers were also urging caution to avoid harming children.
Traylor’s letter comes a day after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, defended the cuts although, as Walters writes, the lawmakers “in doing so told Traylor he had ‘the flexibility to strive for achieving $100 million savings in Medicaid therapy services while preserving access to services.’�