Senators push to save funding for autism therapy for military children

by Drew Brooks
The Fayetteville Observer, N.C

Sen. Thom Tillis and several colleagues are asking the Department of Defense to halt planned cuts to autism therapy for military children.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Tuesday, Tillis, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas called for an immediate postponement of planned reductions to reimbursement rates for such therapy through Tricare.

Tricare is the military-managed health care program for active-duty and retired troops and their families.

At issue is the reimbursement rates for Applied Behavior Analysis, which is used to treat those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The bipartisan letter states cuts to the reimbursement will take effect March 30 and "will likely result in a substantive reduction in access to crucial ABA services for the more than 26,000 children of our military personnel and retirees with ASD."

The senators said they have great concern about the proposal, and question the validity of the lower rates.

They said the new rates could make it more difficult for military children to get the care they need.

The Department of Defense plans to reduce the reimbursement rate by as much as 15 percent.

 But two studies, each commissioned by the Defense Health Agency, calculated different rates, they note.

One found the proposed rates would be 35 percent below the national average.

"With such disparate conclusions, our confidence in the proposed reimbursement rates is limited," the letter reads.

"We ask that the proposed ABA reimbursement rate reductions prescribed by the DHA be immediately postponed pending careful re-evaluation of the existing research on reimbursement rates, and consideration of additional rigorous study, particularly with regard to reimbursements for paraprofessionals," the senators said. "We urge that you take this action immediately before providers leave the Tricare ABA services market and begin to no longer accept new Tricare eligible ABA therapy patients. The children of our servicemen and women deserve nothing less."

Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at or 486-3567.
 (c)2016 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
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