Here’s Who Loses Out if Medicaid Funding is Cut

I am so pleased to have Keith Hammond back as a guest blogger today. Keith is a manager at the adult day services program at Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati and the father of two children. Here he is with a story about his daughter, Hillary.

by Keith Hammond

Keith (left) and his daughter, Hillary (middle)

The young women in my daughter Hillary’s senior chorus concert last month performed a spirited rendition of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” This lead to a fun discussion with my daughter where I informed her that I was familiar with this song and described the quartet that originally sang it. Of course, ABBA had the original song back in the late 70’s, and Hillary had not been Bjorn yet (forgive me, I don’t get to do ABBA puns very often).

This high school performance was different for Hillary, though. She is diagnosed with autism. As a child, when her peers began speaking, she did not. It took her years longer to say her first word, which, sadly was not a word that any parent would want to be their child’s first. Note to parents: Nonverbal children do hear you.

What came naturally to her peers, Hillary had to work harder to achieve. It took years of speech therapy, years where every weekend, evening, and holiday was filled with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) activities designed to encourage sounds, speech, and rehearsing what to say in situations. Hillary has spent every year in school in a social skills group designed to help her and kids like her learn how to interact and speak with others — all things that come naturally to most children. All things most parents take for granted.

Those therapies and interactions are expensive. The average family with a child with autism can expect to spend $60,000 more per year on average for treatment than parents with typically developing children. That’s their own money, not insurance, not Medicaid, nothing else. Every bit of assistance is crucial for children with autism, particularly since they see the vast majority of their progress during their pre-school and school age years.

I’ll give you an example.

When Hillary was about six or seven, her cousin Emily began attending a preschool at a local church. Hillary had language at this point, but it was often distorted and didn’t sound much like the original word. Thus, when we spoke about Emily going to the “Lutheran School,” Hillary pronounced it as the “Loser School.”

“Loser School” did not sit very well with Cousin Emily.

Hillary was going to a private speech therapist for extra therapy at the time, so I explained the situation to the therapist and asked if she could help Hillary pronounce “Lutheran” properly and mollify her cousin. Her response? “Loser School…That’s pretty funny!”

My response? “I’m not paying $80 an hour to hear how funny that is.” Yes, you read that right. Speech therapy was $80 an hour back in 2005. I’ll bet it’s closer to $100 an hour now, likely more. We were very fortunate. Not everyone can afford that.

And that is why the intervention services provided at American schools as part of a free and appropriate education are so essential and so crucial. It may be all some children can get, it may be all some families can afford.

In the House of Representatives in Washington, there have been recent proposals to sharply and drastically reduce Medicaid dollars. With those reductions, they are proposing that schools no longer be considered Medicaid-approved providers, meaning that schools would no longer be reimbursed for the costs required to provide a free and appropriate public education to all children. These are funds that support the speech therapists, the occupational therapists, the physical therapists, and the intervention specialists that assist children with autism and other disabilities to learn to speak, to interact with others, to do jobs in our community, and ultimately to become fully participating members of our society. Without those Medicaid funds, these professionals and services can’t be funded in many schools. What will happen to the many children who so desperately need them?

Hearing my daughter singing with the other young ladies her age at the chorus performance last month got me thinking. Without Medicaid funding, the school staff who helped her, and the services she received in school, I’m not sure she would have been there with her peers singing “Dancing Queen.” Her voice would be absent and silent.

Multiply that by the many others just like her who need those services, staff, and Medicaid funds in order to be included with their peers — They could all be absent from the stage. We can’t let that happen in a civilized country. We need to let our politicians know how much cutting this crucial Medicaid funding could devastate children and families for years to come.

“Loser School?” No, Loser Society. We all lose when these voices are gone.

Read more stories from Keith Hammond about being a dad to two kids with autism:

Breaking Out of the Toilet Talk Trap

What a Broken iPad Taught One Dad About Parenting


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  1. Chelsea Engel Says:

    Powerful story. Concerning proposed cuts. I can tell you how much speech therapy is an hour now, $115. My daughter receives speech therapy at school but more is needed. Shouldn’t everyone have access to the services they need to become successful?

  2. Mary Lou Doran Says:

    As a grandmother of a child with Tourette’s and ADHD, I know how very crucial early access to treatment is in the development of a child. He began showing Tourette’s symptoms a few months after the death of his baby sister,
    was diagnosed a year later at 6 1/2. Their insurance did not want to pay for treatment until he was 10 years old. My daughter had to fight them and Children’s Hospital to get him into treatment- for which they paid massively out of pocket. She argued that negative behavior patterns and poor self image would be solidified in the almost 3 year wait period, education stunted and frustration would lead to negativity. Today is going into the 4th grade, excels at math, science recess and sports. His Tourette’s is under much better control though he gets teased by some peers, the ADHD and mood swings can be challenging but he has a” tough mudder” We must intervene as early as possible with needed services to maximize highest potential in our most vulnerable citizens – our children, the poor, disabled and the elderly.

  3. Lsura kamesar Says:

    Absolutely great especially the Loser society. Laura k

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