Letter to Parents - Autism Funding
June 17, 2003
As you may know, the stateís current Medicaid coverage of intensive in-home
service for children with autism is funded by state and federal dollars. Because
of the rapid growth in the number of children receiving these services, the
costs associated with the program have increased tremendously. In addition to
this, federal officials have raised concerns about whether the program qualifies
for federal Medicaid funding as it is currently structured. Governor Jim Doyle
asked the Department of Health and Family Services to work with families,
providers, legislators and advocates to develop an alternative that would allow
Medicaid to continue to receive federal funding and provide coverage for this
I am very pleased to be able to inform you that an alternative to the stateís
in-home treatment service for children with autism that will qualify for federal
funding has been developed and is included in the proposed state budget. We
believe that it will allow Wisconsin to remain the center for excellence in the
coverage of autism, while assuring that federal financial assistance will
continue to be available.
This Department will be submitting a request to the federal government that a
waiver be granted to Wisconsin allowing federal funds to be used for coverage of
intensive in-home intervention services and a variety of essential support
services for children with autism. This waiver alternative reflects not only
Wisconsinís traditional compassion for children, but also reflects the reality
of our current fiscal situation. On behalf of Governor Doyle, I would like to
thank all involved, including families, providers, advocates, members of the
Legislature, and my staff, for their willingness to roll up their sleeves
together to develop a workable plan for treatment of children with autism.
Highlights of the Waiver Alternative
Briefly, here are several highlights of the waiver alternative:
- Children up to their 8th birthday, who meet diagnostic criteria, will be
able to enroll in intensive in-home autism services.
- The waiver alternative provides treatment at intensive levels (20-35 hours
per week) for children for up to a three-year maximum. The funding is adequate
to allow approximately 250 new children to enter the program each year.
- To determine whether a new child is eligible for waiver services, we will
require an independent evaluation by clinicians experienced in the diagnosis
and treatment of autism. Periodic reevaluation during the three years of
intensive service will also be required to monitor treatment objectives and
progress. This process is currently being developed.
- After children have received three years of intensive services, they will
be enrolled in the regular home and community-based waiver services program
where they can receive continued in-home autism services as well as other
supports and services. These supports and services will be coordinated with
relevant services such as public school services, Medicaid card-covered
services, and other community-based care.
- In order to help contain the costs of the program, the waiver will also
contain a requirement that families with adequate financial resources pay a
portion of the programís costs. The Department is currently working on the
details of this with parents, advocates, and counties.
The waiver alternative is projected to begin no later than November 1, 2003.
The Department is working closely with counties that, in turn, will locally
implement this waiver proposal. Counties are still determining details of
implementing this system. Therefore, questions about the waiver should be
directed to Beth Wroblewski at
To assist in transitioning to the waiver alternative, we will forward your
childís name, your name, and address to your county agency. If you do not want
your information forwarded, please let my staff know by completing the attached
form by July 15, 2003.
Highlights of the Changes Being Made Until the Waiver is Implemented
Until the waiver alternative is implemented later this fall, the transition
plan requires a number of changes to the current way that the service is
covered. For dates of service beginning July 1, 2003, the Department will review
all children currently receiving intensive, in-home autism services to determine
if the child has been receiving the therapy for more than three years. If so,
the child will be eligible to receive up to 15 hours per week of transitional
services, if appropriate, in addition to other Medicaid-covered services for
which the child may be eligible. The 15 hour maximum applies to all face-to-face
therapy time but not provider travel time. The mix of various professional level
therapy hours will be determined on an individual child basis.
For children who have been in therapy less than three years, the current
level of service will be reduced only if the Department determines that a lower
number of hours is clinically appropriate under current guidelines and
procedures. In either case, if anything changes in regard to your child, you
will receive a letter from the Division of Health Care Financing about the
In closing, I would like you to know how hard so many people have worked to
maintain coverage of these vital services. I would like to thank the providers,
advocates, legislative staff and Department employees who dedicated so much time
to making this change happen. But, most of all, I would like to thank the
families of children with autism who took the time and had the courage to help
us find new ways to accomplish our common goals.
Mark B. Moody