Advocates for disabled children hope for last-minute reprieve on therapy cuts | Health

Margaretta Zuniga tries to keep upbeat about her role as a full-time single mother to two daughters who can’t walk, talk or use the restroom by themselves.

Espy, 3, and Malana, 4, suffer from DiGeorge syndrome, a genetic disorder that has delayed their development.

“When people ask me what’s wrong with them, ‘why are they sick?’ I say, ‘They’re not sick, they’re healthy. They’re just delayed,’ ” Zuniga said. “I want to, just want them to grow up and get an education. … I don’t want them dependent on a wheelchair all their life. I want them to be little girls and be able to run around.”

But their path to development depends on a regimen of frequent physical, occupational and speech therapy, a path that may be endangered by a cost-cutting Texas Legislature.

The state of Texas late last year cut reimbursement rates to therapists through the Texas Medicaid Acute Care Therapy program, and advocates for the disabled say access to care has suffered.

The cuts, tied up in court for more than a year, were the result of a 2015 decision by the Texas Legislature to slash the therapy program by $350 million over two years.

House leaders tried to restore the funding in this spring’s legislative session but only succeeded in a 25 percent restoration. Now a bill co-authored by a Waco Republican is giving advocates and parents a glimmer of hope.

The House of Representatives on Aug. 4 unanimously passed House Bill 25, which would restore an additional $160 million of state and federal Medicaid in 2018 and 2019 to the therapy program. Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, filed the bill in the special legislative session with the help of Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco.


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