House committee advances plan to restore some Medicaid funding

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Parents of kids affected by Medicaid therapy rate cuts are holding out hope state lawmakers will step in during the Texas Legislature's special session.

Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee advanced HB25, which would restore some of the $350 million in Medicaid cuts lawmakers approved in 2015. The bill would utilize $70 million in state money from the economic stabilization fund and $93 million from the federal government.

Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, authored the bill.

"If the governor is going to bring us back here to talk about what bathrooms people can use or what we can do with our trees, then surely the disabled should take priority and hopefully we add this to the call," she said.

The money would cover acute care therapy services. Since funding cuts took effect last December, several providers have significantly reduced or eliminated those services.

MORE | House Bill 25

"At this point in time, we haven't even figured out a way to cut deep enough to make it work," said Jennifer Riley of Sage Care Therapy Services. "When they lose their therapy services or when they lose their nursing services, there is no place for them to go but back to a long-term care facility."

Mason Rankin, 6, of San Antonio, receives acute care therapy services through Medicaid. His mother, Gloria, said the coverage saves her family from having to pay copays multiple times a week for his treatment through her private insurance. Additionally, she's seen dramatic progress since March.

"He is still not able to verbally speak, but they have offered him different ways to be able to communicate," Rankin said.

If providers continue to slash services due to the state's funding cuts, she worries her son's progress will be stifled.

"The cuts that may be implemented now are going to have long-term detrimental effects to our community as a whole," she said.

Before the Appropriations Committee Tuesday, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Charles Smith said his agency routinely monitors statewide coverage of health care providers to ensure "adequate" service levels.

"You want to make sure that you have a sufficient number of providers who can meet the needs," Smith said. "Our position is that is not an inappropriate network oftentimes."

Davis disagreed with the commissioner's assessment.

"Would you feel like that is an adequate network if you had to drive an hour-and-a-half every day," she asked Smith. "There is the reality of what's going on and there is this theoretical world. In my opinion, they are very different."

Gov. Greg Abbott did not list Medicaid funding on his call for the Special Session. By not doing so, it could make it difficult for HB25 to progress to the Senate and onto the governor's desk. However, Davis hopes the unanimous committee vote Tuesday will encourage the governor to add the matter to the legislative agenda.

Since the bill would require using money from the state's rainy day fund, it must receive two-thirds approval from both the House and Senate.

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