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Advocates Criticize Payment Amount For Autism Treatment


States have been federally mandated to cover the cost of what’s called Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy for children with autism. Nevada Medicaid has proposed a reimbursement amount for the service, but advocates say it won’t be enough. Reno Public Radio’s Anh Gray reports.

Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, is an autism therapy that uses communication techniques to change behavior. Medical experts have found that when ABA is used early on, it’s especially beneficial.

Nevada Medicaid has proposed to pay certified therapists slightly less than  $30 an hour for the service. But autism advocate Julie Ostrovsky says that amount falls short.

"The Medicaid rate would not even allow the providers to provide those services to low-income clients," Ostrovsky says ABA providers often charge at least $40 an hour.

Behavior analyst Charles Marriot of Autism Care West in Las Vegas says he would lose money at the Medicaid rate.  

"So, they've approved funding for an evidence-based service for a medically necessary condition, however they haven't set reimbursement rates at a level that will allow the treatment to actually be delivered," Marriott says. So, the whole program is pointless at the current reimbursement rate."

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on this issue. The agency will hold a public hearing about the issue in Carson City Monday morning.  There are about 6,000 children in Nevada with autism-related disorders.

Anh is a contributing editor for the KUNR news team and has been with the station since 2014. She is an alumna of the Boston University School of Public Health and Teachers College, Columbia University.