In the News: Appeals court tosses lawsuit blocking Texas Medicaid cuts

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2016

A state appeals court Thursday dismissed a lawsuit challenging $350 million in cuts the Legislature made to a state Medicaid program that provides therapy to disabled children, but opponents of the cuts vowed to continue their fight.

The ruling by the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals also lifted a temporary injunction that had blocked Texas from implementing cuts that were intended to begin Oct. 1, 2015, but state officials haven’t yet determined when the new reimbursement rates will take effect, a spokesman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said Thursday.

Home health care providers, and families that rely on their services, had sued to block rates that therapists said could cut revenue by 18 to 28 percent, forcing closures that would interrupt vital physical, occupational and speech therapy services for children.

But the appeals court ruled that the providers and families didn’t have standing to sue the state because there is no vested right to "a particular level of reimbursement” for Medicaid services.

"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.

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But Texans Care for Children, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the spending cuts will undermine children’s health and limit early childhood intervention services, shifting special-education costs to elementary schools.

"This is a bad day for Texas kids,” said Stephanie Rubin, the group’s chief executive. "The cuts would make it harder for kids with disabilities to meet their developmental goals, whether they are trying to learn to swallow their food, communicate with their parents or get ready to succeed in school.”

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