Parents in Kansas say long waitlists and shortages of insurance providers are reducing access to therapy for their children with autism.
Psychologists often point families who have children with autism to applied behavior analysis, or ABA therapy. The one-on-one therapy is meant to help autistic children develop life skills that may not come easily, KCUR-FM reported .
But in Kansas, many families are navigating the insurance maze and waitlists that can make seeking care complex and time consuming. The situation is worse for children with Medicaid as their primary or secondary insurance.
“I try to share everything we know,” said Jillian Fitzmorris, who runs an autism support group and has a son with autism who participates in ABA therapy.
Behavior analysts in the state can’t keep up with demand for ABA therapy, citing slow reimbursements from the state’s privatized Medicaid program, KanCare. The program insures children based on family income and level of need.
The KanCare rate pays about 50 percent and doesn’t cover the time and costs, said a spokeswoman for the Family Service and Guidance Center in Topeka.
The process of getting credentials from KanCare’s three contractors can sometimes take months per therapist. Applicants in the meantime will sometimes disappear.
“We have about 75 employees in our agency at any one time,” said Katrina Ostmeyer, associate executive director at Integrated Behavioral Technologies. “Ideally, if we’re fully staffed, we should have about 120.”
IBT currently serves about 60 children in major parts of Kansas, and has about 150 on its waitlist for ABA. It can take a long time for slots to open because therapy for one child can take years.
KanCare Director Jon Hamdorf said the three insurance companies that run KanCare are now engaged in weekly conversations with IBT over unpaid claims. He’s also talking to lawmakers about the Medicaid reimbursement rates.