Parents, advocates fight to get much-needed treatment for Texas children on Autism spectrum

Houston, TX. – Families across Texas are struggling to pay for Autism therapy even though legislation was approved last year to help offset those costs.

When a child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, parents are often told Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy is their best bet for treatment. In fact, the earlier, they start the better.

While ABA therapy was supposed to be covered by Texas Medicaid, more than 70,000 children in Texas, who are eligible for this treatment if they need it, still don’t have access to it.

Gold standard of treatment

Paying for what many experts consider the gold standard treatment for children with Autism is as expensive as sending your child to college.

“You have to come up with a huge chunk of money at least yearly to cover it," Marybeth Curoso said.

Curoso said without health insurance, it’s nearly impossible to afford.

“It’s been life-changing for him. He was a different kid last year,” she said.

Curoso said she shouldn’t even be paying out of pocket to get therapy for her 9-year-old son Mitchell. But for many Texas children enrolled in Medicaid, they are still waiting.

“It’s kind of like having a medical diagnosis like diabetes and not having your insulin covered. It’s super important for them to live,” Curoso said.

Six years ago, federal Medicaid regulations required states to start covering necessary Autism treatments, including ABA.

Texas was among the last to include the coverage, yet the program still hasn’t been rolled out.

“Medicaid coverage is crucial. That’s what everyone has been fighting for,” Curoso said.

Pressing state lawmakers

Christa Stevens, the Director of State Government Affairs with Autism Speaks, said while the state has been under tremendous pressure to meet a variety of needs, the children with Autism have suffered immensely amid COVID-19.

Mitchell, Curoso’s son, stopped ABA in March because of the pandemic.

“He has 15 tantrums a day at school. He’s not getting any education,” Curoso said.

Curoso, who no longer has insurance that will cover ABA, is now shopping around for a new policy that will. Having the coverage through Texas Medicaid would be a huge burden off of her shoulders in more ways than one.

“The financial struggle is huge. The amount of work and mental exhaustion, constantly trying to stay on top of it,” Curoso said.

KPRC 2 reached out to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s office, regarding the delay in implementing the program. We are awaiting a response.

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