A troubling provision of the new federal health care bill impacts vital services for special education students.

Health Care Bill Inconsistent with IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees all children a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. IDEA requires that children with special needs receive individualized educational plans that include services to help them learn. Many school districts rely on Medicaid to pay for qualifying services and therapies, such as speech, occupational and behavioral therapy. These services are an integral part of a child’s overall educational plan.

However, under the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the federal government would sharply limit its contribution to Medicaid.  Instead of paying a percentage of actual Medicaid costs, states will receive a fixed amount per Medicaid beneficiary each year.

Cuts to Medicaid Passed on to Schools

Federal Medicaid cuts, projected to be $880 million over 10 years, place special education services in jeopardy. If states have to pay more for Medicaid, it is likely they will reduce coverage or limit services as a result. As The New York Times reports in a recent article, “schools would have to compete for funding with other entities, like hospitals and clinics, that serve Medicaid-eligible children.”

Similar concerns are expressed in a letter to lawmakers from the Save Medicaid in Schools Coalition, a group of school educators and advocacy organizations. The group fears that increasing the state’s Medicaid costs will cause “higher taxes, eligibility cuts or curtailed services for children.”

Furthermore, the National Disability Rights Network said in a press release: “[T]oday, we took a giant step backward. . . The projected loss of $880 billion in federal Medicaid dollars will compel states to ration health care for children, including important mental health services, impacting the ability of schools to provide needed education services to their students and lead to noncompliance with the federal mandates under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

Next, the AHCA moves to the Senate for debate and poslsible changes.

Revised and published with permission from the American Society of Special Needs Planners.

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Health Care Bill Could Reduce or Eliminate Services for Special Education Students
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