Parents & Kids Sue Texas for Health Cuts

     AUSTIN (CN) – Texas illegally cut off funding for thousands of children who take Medicaid-paid transportation to their medical appointments, parents and children claim in Travis County Court.
     Advocates for Patient Access and four children sued the Texas Health and Services Commission, claiming the state is refusing transportation funding for children under 15 who participate in the Texas Health Steps program, unless their parents are go with them to and from health appointments.
     “Any child younger than 15 who is otherwise eligible to get a ride, but whose parents or guardians are working, disabled, ill, watching other children, or otherwise unable to accompany the child to an appointment, will be forced to find another way of getting to the appointment or forego the appointment altogether,” the complaint states. “And any child who does somehow manage to find transportation to the appointment, but who is not accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult relative, will not have their services paid for by Medicaid.”
     Texas Health Steps is a Medicaid-funded medical and dental prevention and treatment program for children of low-income Texas families, from birth through 20 years of age.
     The plaintiffs said the state, in a March 15 letter to outpatient rehabilitation facilities, “substantially distorts” the language of a controlling state statute that “very clearly states that accompaniment may be performed by ‘another adult, including an adult related to the child, authorized by the child’s parent or guardian to accompany the child.'”
     They say the result has been that children have been cut off from medical services, at the cost of their health.
     The director of the Medical Transporation Program, Dametria Pope, said at an April conference that 1,000 fewer children were served the week after the publication of the state’s letter, according to the complaint.
     “This suggests that at least 1,000 children per day have not received transportation services,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs said the dispute has resulted in a decline in Medicaid reimbursements, which threatens the existence of many outpatient rehabilitation facilities in the state.
     Advocates for Patient Access was formed by 20 similarly situated facilities and approximately 500 parents of affected children who were “unable to tolerate the current state of affairs,” according to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgement and a restraining order and injunction.
     They are represented by Thomas Watkins with Brown McCarroll in Austin.

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