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State Proposes Medicaid Cuts To Services For Children With Autism

Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Ana Lopez Del Castillo, a registered behavior technician, works with a child at Amazing Gains Behavior Therapy Services in Orlando.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration last week proposed Medicaid reimbursement reductions for providers who treat children with autism.

These reductions are for a few different behavior assessments and provider types, but most notable is a 51% cut to reimbursement rates for registered behavior technicians - the largest group of people who provide behavior analysis therapy to children on the autism spectrum.

Brittany Harger, co-owner of Creative Behavior Solutions in Largo, said the cuts may mean they, and other clinics, can no longer afford to take clients with Medicaid.

"We think that every child deserves therapy and every child deserves a chance to learn and Medicaid is not making that possible for us to do - and maintain a business,” Harger said.

The Florida Association for Behavior Analysis called the proposal “a short-sighted plan” in a statement on their website that “has the potential to dramatically limit quality providers’ ability to render service” and encouraged members to reach out to their state representatives.

A similar statement, aimed at parents, encouraged similar action.

Both providers and parents started getting letters about the changes before AHCA made their public announcement last Friday at a meeting in Tallahsee. (Click here to see both letters.)

Credit Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media

The cuts come after AHCA starting cracking down on fraud in South Florida a year ago. Providers say the state’s efforts have backfired, resulting in authorization clogs, frozen payments, and credentialing issues that meant some children lost their services temporarily or permanently, while others sit on clinic waitlists.

"We're more than happy to jump through more hoops for them - it's not an issue,” Harger said. “But when it comes down to the quality of life for the RBTs and the quality of care these kids deserve, we're not willing to sacrifice that."

Harger, along with other providers and parents, is participating in a demonstration against the cuts at AHCA's Tampa public meeting on Friday, April 5 at 6800 N. Dale Mabry Hwy Suite 220.

Similar meetings and protests will be held across the state.


Proposed cuts will take effect in July if finalized.

Anyone experiencing difficulty accessing ABA services can contact AHCA using the Florida Medicaid Helpline at 1-877-254-1055.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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