COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Parents left feeling helpless and unable to get life-changing therapy for their children with autism have been pushing lawmakers for help. That's why word from one senator of a fraud investigation within the state's autism program concerns them.
The state's Medicaid provider is the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Senator Thomas Alexander (R- Oconee) told WIS-TV's Ashleigh Holland on Wednesday, that the department let him know a couple of weeks ago one of their autism providers was under investigation.
He's also brought this up during budget debates on the Senate floor.
"We're always concerned about making sure that any program is handled in the appropriate manner, and that services are being provided and quality services are being provided. So, it was the context of making sure the agency has that ability they made me aware of the investigation," Alexander told WIS.
That's troublesome for parents like Emily Wright. Her 13-year-old daughter, Reagan, is currently on a waiting list for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA).
"It did make me concerned though because it creates a fear in the minds of our legislators, and I don't want that fear to stop them from enacting a law that could help the autism community," Wright said.
Wright hopes that won't distract from raising the rate at which Medicaid pays therapists in South Carolina. The Senate's version of next year's state budget would raise it from $17 an hour to $31 an hour. Alexander says that would cost the state $4.8 million.
That's a small step forward, to Wright. She wants a higher rate to attract more therapists so more children can get treatment.
DHHS told WIS they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation and directed Holland to call on the Attorney General's office for comments on Medicaid fraud. However, their spokesman says it's against policy to confirm or deny any ongoing investigation.