Saturday, April 26, 2008

Funding Autism Therapy May Slight Other Children


Published: April 23, 2008

TALLAHASSEE - Who deserves help the most: low-income children, or wealthier ones who need costly treatment for autism?

That's the kind of Sophie's choice that lawmakers may face when it comes time to vote on expanding health care coverage for children with developmental disorders.

House Speaker Marco Rubio has made a priority of the late-arrived House bill, which would expand KidCare, the state's health plan for low-income children, to cover expensive treatments of developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and spina bifida. The bill would also allow more families with incomes too high to qualify for KidCare to buy into the program.

In many cases, early intervention with intense therapies can transform the lives of developmentally disabled children, improving their physical and mental capabilities. But the therapies are expensive - prohibitively so for many families.

The House proposal to provide coverage for those treatments carries a price tag of more than $23 million for the state. So far, though, the only funding that House lawmakers have identified for the initiative is the $36 million they had earmarked to create 38,000 new subsidized KidCare slots for children living under 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

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