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AHCA Modifies ABA Therapy Meeting Format, Program Implementation

Providers and parents fill the room of AHCA's Tampa field office for a public meeting about proposed changes to behavior analysis therapy through Florida Medicaid. Future meetings will be held in webinar form.
Daylina Miller
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Behavioral therapists who work mostly with children on the autism spectrum say the state agency that oversees the Medicaid program is finally starting to listen to their concerns.

The State Agency for Health Care Administration is now running meetings on behavior analysis therapy changes -- that had been scheduled in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Pensacola over the coming weeks -- in webinar form.

This comes after complaints from providers and parents that a lot of people were locked out by the 150-person cap on attendance. Attendance was restricted after a Tampa meeting was split into two session because too many people tried to attend.  

The webinars allow up to 1,000 people to participate. If demand exceeds the available slots, AHCA will schedule more webinars.

Karen Wagner, owner of Behavior Services of Brevard, said the webinars will be more accessible than in-person meetings, especially since many providers were traveling across the state to attend each meeting.

"It takes time out of the day, it can be extremely inconvenient, and a lot of providers lose money and people lose service for that day,” Wagner said.

The webinar format will also allow more parents to attend. When AHCA first capped attendance and required registration, most of the sign-up slots went to providers.

There are some providers who are concerned that the webinar format is a way to prevent rallies and restrict media access. They’re also worried the chat format could make it easier for the agency to ignore certain questions and comments.

In an email to providers, AHCA wrote:

“The Agency has hosted several public meetings to introduce proposed changes to Medicaid-covered behavior analysis services. These changes are being proposed to ensure children receive the right service, at the right time, and by the right provider. It is of chief importance to the Agency that children who need behavior analysis services receive the highest quality of care and continue to receive services in a timely manner. Based on public input to date, we are modifying the proposed changes and the schedule for implementation."

Wagner said that while agency officials conceded they did not loop in providers as soon as they should have, she’s pleased with the changes they’ve made after public outcry.

“I think we'll have to do a little bit of a wait and see but I'm heartened by the fact that they seem to be responding to our fairly pragmatic concerns,” Wagner said.

The also issued a statement applauding AHCA’s response.

“It’s clear that state officials are listening to the heartfelt concerns and vocal comments that have come from parents and providers across the state,” said Andrew Houvouras, BCBA President of the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis, in a news release.

“This is an important step in the right direction and we are confident that these new changes will provide more opportunity and time for providers and state officials to collaborate and work toward our shared goal of ensuring that every individual in Florida who needs services is able to work with a qualified behavior analyst.”

Aside from changing the meeting format, other changes include:

  • Delaying the requirement that provider groups show proof of health care clinic licensure until July 1, 2020 to give them more time
  • Delaying statewide implementation of the multidisciplinary team model for authorizing behavior analysis services and instead launching it as a pilot program in Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, St. Johns, Volusia, Brevard, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.
  • Delaying statewide implementation of electronic visit verification (GPS tracking of providers) for behavioral analysis services and instead launching it as a pilot program in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties until effectiveness is determined.

The agency previously announced it will postpone changes that would have reduced reimbursement rates paid for behavior analysis services by as much as 54%.

The proposed changes come after AHCA starting cracking down on fraud in South Florida a year ago. Providers said the state’s efforts have backfired, resulting in  authorization clogsfrozen payments, and  credentialing issues that meant some children lost their services temporarily or permanently, while others sit on clinic waitlists.

Click below to register for the three webinars currently scheduled:

Thursday, April 25 - 10:30 a.m. EDT to 11:30 a.m. EDT

Friday, April 26 – 10:30 a.m. EDT to 11:30 a.m. EDT

Friday, May 10 – 1-:30 a.m. EDT to 11:30 a.m. EDT

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.
Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.