August 23, 2023

Families of autistic children ask to halt Medicaid proposal, say it will limit access to ABA therapy

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Prior to Lt. Suzanne Crouch's letter to the FSSA secretary, Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state is overdue for a set standard and that slowing down this process would “not be fair to anyone.”  - Brandon Smith/IPB News

Prior to Lt. Suzanne Crouch's letter to the FSSA secretary, Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state is overdue for a set standard and that slowing down this process would “not be fair to anyone.”

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Parents of children with autism want the governor to stop a proposal they said will reduce access to a common behavioral treatment. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration proposed a new Medicaid rate earlier this month.

Applied Behavior Analysis therapy builds communication skills and addresses behavioral problems. The proposal sets a rate of around $55 an hour for ABA therapy with a registered behavioral technician. The average cost for ABA therapy is about $91 per hour according to a cost survey conducted by the FSSA.

In a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb, parents and advocates said the rate isn’t enough to maintain quality of care for children.

Jill Norton works at Adapt for Life, an ABA therapy center and is the parent of two children with autism. She said the rates aren’t sustainable for these centers, but families still need the services.

“I would love for some of the people who are making these decisions to actually see what's going on in centers,” Norton said. “If they saw the quality of care in the effort and on a daily basis, I don't think the decision would be, ultimately, the same.”

In the letter, advocates write there are multiple ways the proposed rate could lead to a lack of access. Providers may limit the amount of care available to Medicaid members. However, there is also a chance ABA therapy centers may have to close as a result of the rate.

“I really hope that we can make a change here or at least meet in the middle somewhere,” Norton said.

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On Friday, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch requested a delay in finalizing these rates in a letter to the Indiana FSSA secretary.

“This issue is too important to Hoosier families to get wrong,” Crouch said in the letter. “Let’s take the time to get it right.”

Prior to Crouch’s letter, Governor Holcomb said the state is overdue for a set standard and that slowing down this process would “not be fair to anyone.”

“It is absolutely appropriate and I would say long overdue that we have some standards set,” Holcomb said.

The FSSA is collecting feedback and expects to establish final rates in late 2023 or early 2024.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at aruhman@wboi.org.

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