Autism Service Providers Close After Medicaid Policy Changes

Beth Bunge and Terry Todd... co-owners of Palmetto Autism Interventions.. says it starts with the lack of medicaid funding

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Imagine if your child was struggling with autism and there was no way to help them. That is becoming the reality for some parents in South Carolina. Some Autism Care Providers are closing because it is too expensive for them to continue services.

"You feel so helpless and you feel like nobody wants to help us," said Deborah Magill, whose granddaughter has autism.
 
Magill says she feels emotionally drained thinking about the future of her granddaughter's autism care services.
 
"You've got it going, and then a bomb," Magill said.
 
That bomb was a notification that her care providers, Palmetto Autism Interventions, is closing. 
 
"It just has become it's too much," said Beth Bunge, co-owner of Palmetto Autism Interventions.
 
Bunge and Terry Todd are co-owners of Palmetto Autism Interventions. They say it starts with the lack of Medicaid funding.
 
"Most of the surrounding states are getting $40-$50 per hour for the same service, we're getting $15," Bunge said.
 
On top of that, starting July 1st, Bunge says Medicaid will stop paying for their plan developments.
 
"You assess the child, you plan for what the services will be, and then you go in and work with the child," Bunge says, "that will no longer be reimbursed."
 
Bunge says that is about $1300 per child. She says training requirements for therapists will also increase. 
 
"That's about $800-$900 dollars per person that we're spending just to get someone through the door," Bunge said.
 
Bunge says closing down puts their 100 kids out of service.. but that doesn't even scratch the surface. The South Carolina Autism Society says there are about 2000 children with autism on the waiting list.
  
These changes mean several other autism care providers will be closing, while others will stop accepting Medicaid.
 
"It shouldn't be this difficult," Magill said.
 
Magill says her granddaughter and all children dealing with autism deserve better.
 
"They deserve every service that they can get as early as they can get, and that's not happening in South Carolina," Magill said.
 
Bunge says a year of care for children with autism costs about $50,000.

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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