LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas legislative committee has approved rules that could tighten the eligibility requirements for state Medicaid programs serving children with developmental disabilities or delays.
The rules approved Tuesday by the Legislative Council’s Administrative Rules and Regulations subcommittee would combine two preschool programs starting July 1 if later approved by the council. The Child Health Management Services and the Development Day Treatment Clinic Services serve about 18,000 children, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .
Children must have an assessed development disability or delay and a need for speech, occupational or physical therapy or nursing services to qualify for the new program, known as Early Intervention Day Treatment.
Such criteria are already required to qualify for Child Health Management Services, but children can qualify for Developmental Day Treatment Clinic Services without needing therapy or nursing services.
More than a third of the 9,200 children receiving assistance from the latter program don’t receive therapy, said Melissa Stone, director of the Department of Human Services’ Developmental Disabilities Services Division.
But Stone said some of those children may end up qualifying for the new program based on needs that haven’t yet been assessed.
“This is the right thing to do for kids,” she said.
The change is expected to reduce Medicaid spending by about $14 million annually through billing efficiencies, according to Stone.
Some providers are concerned the program will serve fewer children, including those with cognitive delays who don’t need therapy or nursing care. Providers worry about the availability of preschool and child care options for those children, especially in rural areas, said Janie Sexton, director of Building Bridges Developmental and Community Services.
“The child’s needs for intervention do not change just because you put them in another setting,” Sexton said.
The rules will go to the council Friday for final approval.