The version of the American Health Care Act that passed the House of Representatives could cause problems for schools if it passes the Senate in the same form.
“It could change the way schools receive funding for in-school services that they provide under the Federal Special Education Act,” said Leah Fliter, Advocacy and Outreach Specialist with the Kansas Association of School Boards. “Some of those changes could either restrict or eliminate the reimbursement funding that Kansas schools get to provide services to their students.”
Services that are required for some children to learn but that are more medical in nature, like occupational therapy and speech therapy could see their funding changed.
“Those services are provided in schools,” said Fliter. “They are often a little bit more expensive. The Medicaid reimbursement that schools apply for helps compensate schools for those costs, such as salaries or equipment like wheelchairs or other adaptive equipment.”
The new health care law would allow states to say that schools are no longer authorized Medicaid providers, which would prevent them from recouping those costs with Federal dollars. Even if states did not change that portion of current statute, schools funds could still be cut another way.
“The bill puts a per-capita cap on Medicaid funding for populations, such as elderly, or in this case, school districts, or schoolchildren. If you can only provide a certain amount of Medicaid services to a population, such as schoolchildren, eventually the Federal money runs out. Schools either have to stop services or they have to find other ways to fund that.”
Since special education is a Federal mandate, that would mean money would have to come from state taxes or local property taxes to make up the difference.
The Association is encouraging parents and educators to contact Kansas U.S. Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts to urge them to be sure that the legislation passed by the Senate does not have these provisions. They are concerned that the provisions may stay in as a result of such a short time window to pass the legislation, as the Senate wants to pass its version of the bill before the July 4th recess.