In a proposed bill to cut the costs of Medicaid, Texas lawmakers may be directly hurting special needs children and their families. Texas State Senators Jane Nelson, Charles Schwertner and Lois Kolkhorst, and backed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick all rallied to dramatically cut state expenditures on vital health care needs, but baffling support tax cut proposals that would hurt smaller-scale local government.
They drastically cut and slash at the Texas Medicaid Acute Care Therapy Program, against backlash from the families who receive much-needed care from that program that allows them a better quality of life. The Senator’s thought that the program was spending too much money on services that provide physical, speech and occupational therapy services for special needs or disabled children.
The state intends to cut $50 million per year from the therapy provider’s salaries. Who’s going to want to become a special needs therapist in that kind of financial climate, no matter how important the job is?
As of now, the “plan” is to magically make therapy services less expensive while attempting to cut an addition $25 million somewhere from the program — although there are no unnecessary services that could be considered “fat” to be trimmed.
But recently, the Health and Human Services Commission of Texas held a conference to hear the thoughts of their stakeholders. More than 400 people showed up, even after the Texas government accused them of being state-funded moochers who have been somehow spoiled by state-funded care.
Those 400-some people consisted primarily of the families of the special needs children who had previously benefited from the Texas Medicaid Acute Care Therapy Program. Special needs care providers, physical therapists, and other dedicated and concerned health care providers were in attendance to show their support for the program.
They came together in a show of force to try and convince the lawmakers to abstain from the proposed cuts that would hurt their special needs children and care recipients. The crowd claimed that the budget cuts would impact approximately 50,000 to 70,000 special needs children throughout the state of Texas.
There was an open mic that allowed parents to voice their own stories of the excellent care their children received through the program, and how the budget cuts would deprive children and their families of a critical service.
One parent, Morgan Mobley, summed up the advocates’ feelings at the conference: “You’re taking away from [children’s] future. You’re taking away from their chance to live a better life. You’re taking away from their families and their families’ hope for something better.”
The budget cuts would not only affect the children and their families, but the entire therapy industry in Texas. Health care providers at the meeting provided a grim warning that such drastic cuts to the salaries of health care workers would discourage future health service providers from entering in the field, would lower the quality of care and number of hours available to work, as well as force some long-time health care workers out of the industry into jobs with wages that could help provide for their families.
Other health care providers cautioned that the cuts would hurt rural Texas children with already-limited access to important health services most of all. Families who can’t otherwise afford medical care for their special needs children will have to cut back on time spent at work trying to provide for their family with their extra medical costs without the aid of the program.
State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer spoke in defense of the program and the families that rely on it. “This appears to be an idea, someone’s idea, a proposal in the budget that was never clearly vetted by both chambers.Why or how did we get to the juncture where we are going to put 60,000 children in jeopardy over a misunderstanding of what a rider means?”
He continue to speak on behalf of the programs benefits, and spoke out against the state’s misguided budget cuts that would place the heaviest burden on the backs of the families who are already struggling the most. “If the mission of the agency is to do what’s politically convenient instead of what’s right, I’m not so sure I should be standing up on the floor of the House,” Fischer said.