Senator 'concerned' by Pentagon's autism spending cuts

A Senate Democrat is coming to the rescue of military families who could lose medical help for their autistic children.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan Democrats feel high anxiety in Biden spending conflict Biden meets with Jayapal to kick off week of pivotal meetings MORE (D-Va.) says he is "concerned" by controversial changes to the military's healthcare plan that could leave hundreds of autistic children without a healthcare provider.

In a letter to the Pentagon, Warner calls on Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, to "postpone" any changes to TRICARE that could jeopardize health coverage for autistic children.


"I urge TRICARE to postpone the implementation of any potential modifications to the coverage of (autism) services until affected military families and providers have had an opportunity to provide their input," Warner wrote.

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

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 provider reimbursement guidelines, 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.

The Pentagon has since said it will delay the pay cuts as it reviews the proposed changes to TRICARE. But many providers and military families are still concerned.

"As a result, I have heard from several families who are facing an increase in out-of-pocket expenses, a lack of access to critical services and confusion over appropriate policy interpretation," Warner wrote.