Pentagon to delay autism spending cuts

Pentagon to delay autism spending cuts
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The Pentagon is delaying controversial healthcare spending cuts after hundreds of military families complained it would have left their autistic children without coverage, according to an official from the Department of Defense.

Pentagon officials announced late Wednesday they are halting a plan to slash TRICARE payments in half for providers who work with autistic children.

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This comes after TRICARE providers warned they would stop treating more than 1,100 autistic children because of the massive pay cuts. 

“The department understands the concerns caused by the rate change,” an official from the Department of Defense told The Hill. “In order to address these concerns, the department has commissioned an independent view of the (program).”

TRICARE officials began informing key congressional staffers Wednesday evening that they would delay the pay cuts until April 20, 2015, as they order an independent review of the changes.

Other changes to the program will go into effect as scheduled later this month, the department official said.

The announcement was made about an hour after The Hill published a story about the planned cuts.

As part of an effort to reduce its healthcare costs, the Pentagon was planning to slash payments in half to providers who work with autistic children under TRICARE, the military’s healthcare plan.

The latest TRICARE manual, released in September, cut their pay from $125 a hour to between $50 and $68 an hour.

Many healthcare providers balked at the cuts, saying they wouldn’t be able to provide the services without the additional money. If they go through, providers said the services will disappear.

A survey of TRICARE providers who work with autistic children finds 95 percent of these providers planned to cut back on the services they offer, while 22 percent intended to stop working with military children altogether, if the changes were to go through.

The study was conducted by Navigation Behavioral Consulting, a healthcare provider that works with autistic children.

The proposed changes were announced in the Federal Register in June and scheduled to take effect on Oct. 20, before the delay pushed the deadline back to April.

According to TRICARE documents, more than 7,800 military children received autism benefits in 2013.