In a two-page order [PDF], the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked planned Medicaid cuts July 8 that advocates feared would decimate the state’s services for autism therapy and other physical, occupational and speech therapeutic services for children with disabilities.
The cuts, passed by the Texas Legislature last June, were set to go into effect July 15. They would have reduced reimbursement rates to providers of such services by an estimated 18 to 28 percent, likely forcing them to cut services and close their doors, as reported by the Austin Statesman.
Overall, the cuts would have eliminated $350 million in Medicaid funding for these services: $150 million in state funding and $200 million in federal matching funds. An estimated 60,000 children would see reduced or eliminated services.
The cuts were initially set to go into effect October 1, 2015, but were halted when State District Judge Tim Sulak issued an injunction in September. The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin reversed this past April.
“Medicaid benefits are entitled to constitutional protection, but this protection does not mandate that a Medicaid participant has access to a particular provider or that a participant’s provider will continue to receive payment or reimbursement rates at a previously set amount,” Justice Melissa Goodwin wrote for the court’s three-judge panel, according to the Austin Statesman.
In June, fifty members of Texas House Democratic Cause sent a letter to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, asking it to halt the cuts. The petitioners, who were represented by Alexander Dubose Jefferson Townsend LLP and Richard Rodriguez Skeith LLP, filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court [PDF] on June 28, leading to the injunction.
“Our plaintiffs, particularly the parents of these children, are extremely grateful to the Supreme Court of Texas for their quick action which means that life-saving therapy remains available to our most vulnerable children,” spokesman Chuck McDonald said in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune. “It would be impossible to overstate how significant it is that this injunction remains in place.”