Autism Advocates Rally for More Medicaid Access to Therapy

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO)- Autism advocates say Medicaid funding for ABA therapy in South Carolina is the lowest in our nation. Families are urging lawmakers for more support.

According to the Autism Academy of South Carolina, over 7,500 children in our state have autism. Experts say that applied behavior analysis or ABA is one of the best therapies for treatment.

Back in 2007, South Carolina passed legislation known as Ryan’s Law, a bill that requires insurance coverage for autism treatment.

According to Autism Speaks, the Medicaid rate for South Carolina ABA therapists is around $14 compared to the national rate of around $43.  ABA providers say the lack of Medicaid funding creates a shortage of service for children with autism.

“There are over 1,000 families in South Carolina waiting to access services like we provide here at the Autism Academy. Unfortunately the rates are so low, we can’t afford to pay our staff and keep the lights on. These families are waiting and not getting services and each day, week, month, year that goes by, that’s time they’re losing that they could be getting this therapy that can change their lives,” said Autism of Academy of South Carolina’s Executive Director Michael McCauley.

Advocates say the budget passed by the House will not provide enough funding to make a significant difference in the rates but senators from both parties say they hope to increase funding for medicaid.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we can get it raised. I’ve been working on that already over on the Senate side, it has to go through the process. I will be a huge advocate to see that we can get it raised as much as we can because I’ve personally seen the success and what it can do for our children,” said Greenville Republican Senator Tom Corbin.

“It shouldn’t be a thing about some who are able to afford it as opposed to some who cannot. I think the state [should] provide the funds to make sure that each kid gets the best possible service,” said Greenwood Democratic Senator Floyd Nicholson.