WASHINGTON — It’s difficult for some military parents at Fort Bragg, N.C., and other bases nationwide, to find in-network specialists for their children with autism and that’s due, in part, to the way federal officials changed health insurance plan reimbursements earlier this year, according to a group of U.S. senators.

North Carolina’s Thom Tillis has joined the group of senators in a bipartisan call for Congress to reverse the reimbursement cuts via additional funding for the U.S. Department of Defense. Tillis, a Republican, is one of six lawmakers who sent a letter to federal funding decision-makers this week asking for the issue to be addressed.

The reimbursement issue arose, according to the senators, after Defense Health Agency officials changed the rate TRICARE pays medical providers for applied behavior analysis. ABA is an at-home treatment program used by nearly half of the 26,000 children covered by TRICARE who have been diagnosed with autism.

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The controversial rate adjustment went in effect April 1, 2016.

Doctors in some large cities ended up getting more money from TRICARE reimbursements but the change also prompted cuts to providers located in other areas of the country — namely affecting military bases in rural areas, Tillis and other senators wrote.

The letter asks leaders on the House and Senate appropriations committees to include $32 million in upcoming budget legislation. That money, according to the senators, will effectively reverse the reimbursement rate cuts and address the shortage of ABA therapy providers.

Military bases affected by the rate change and associated medical provider services include those in Washington State, Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

The House and Senate already this year approved the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 to include reinstating ABA reimbursement rates. But that bill does not appropriate federal funding for such costs and final approval of the budget is expected later this year.

© 2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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