Autistic Kids Being Denied Critical Care

A coalition of children’s health and autism support organizations says that hundreds of California’s children are suffering from disruptions in critical health care services as the state transitions from the Healthy Families Program to Medi-Cal. In particular, children in Healthy Families who had been receiving standard therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are being denied these services in Medi-Cal, often with less than a week’s notice.

Governor Brown’s Administration has continually promised that no children would lose access to services during the multi-tiered transition of over 900,000 children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal. California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley was quoted as saying that officials would not shift children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal unless they were sure the children would receive adequate health care: “We will delay the transition’ for certain children if they are unlikely to receive adequate care under Medi-Cal.” She said, “At this point, everything is on track.”

Now, after the transition of over 600,000 children to Medi-Cal, children’s health advocates say it is clear that everything is not on track. “These problems represent a shameful failure to provide for children who the state has known for at least six months were at risk of losing services,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now.

Advocates worry interruptions in autism services may foretell broader challenges. “We know that only a small percentage of affected families ever file a complaint, and since the state’s monitoring of the Healthy Families transition has been woefully inadequate, other continuity of care issues may take a while to surface,” added Karen Fessel, executive director and founder of the Autism Health Insurance Project.

Last Updated 09/23/2020

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