SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - As the Louisiana State Legislature gathers at the capital on Monday for a 10-day special session, one ArkLaTex family is worried about the future of their child's medical needs.
State lawmakers will need to solve a more than $300 million budget shortfall and Governor John Bel Edwards has said deep cuts will need to be made.
Taylor and Wade Taylor of Bossier City hope those cuts do not include Medicaid for the sake of their son, three-and-a-half-year-old Brantley.
Brantley loves dinosaurs, watching Finding Nemo and running around. He was born with autism and his mother said he wasn't even able to speak last summer.
"If he wanted an apple for breakfast and we handed him a banana, he would bang his head because he couldn't get that need out to us," Taylor Taylor said. "He would punch himself. He would hurt others."
Today, Brantley loves to play with words and can even repeat words back to his parents. He receives a special therapy called Applied Behavioral Analysis at the Behavioral Specialists of Louisiana Center on Olive Street in Shreveport.
"He is starting to say 'I love you' and show affection. He didn't do any of that without ABA," Taylor said.
Taylor said even that was a long, uphill battle for her family. It took being placed on a waiting list for six months for Brantley to even be diagnosed as autistic.
From there, she said it was another year-and-a-half before Brantley could receive ABA treatments.
Center managers said they treat 70 children every day and their ABA program offers essential treatments for autistic children.
"Communication skills, coping skills, self-injury behavior or dangerous behavior to others," said the Medical Officer Manager for Behavioral Specialists of Louisiana, Leah Ramoz.
Brantley undergoes treatments at the center for 35 hours every week
The Taylors said they have private insurance that doesn't cover behavioral expenses so they rely on Medicaid to help pay for the treatments that allow Brantley to speak and continue developing as a child.
But the quality of those treatments may be at risk if more cuts to Medicaid are passed by the legislature during the upcoming special session.
Ramoz said as of January 21st, their funds from both Medicaid and Louisiana Blue Cross were cut by 24% from the 2016 special sessions.
"If we were paid $100 an hour for a psychological service, with a 24% rate cut, we're looking at $76 per hour," she said.
If more cuts come, Ramoz said layoffs will come to the Shreveport center.
"Right now, we're staffed one-to-one. If we were to be cut any further, we would have to lose part of our staff," she said.
According to Ramoz, that would lessen the quality of care they provide for children. While they may be able to absorb the costs because of their size, smaller centers may even be forced to close their doors under more cuts.
Ramoz also said more cuts would impact children's access to treatments in the ArkLaTex as other centers have less and less incentive to locate here.
"With a 24% rate cut, who wants to come and start a facility and provide service?" she asked.
That would leave children like Brantley without the treatments they need.
"It's not fair to him," said his father, Wade Taylor. "He didn't ask to be born with autism and he didn't ask to be born into a family that doesn't have a lot of money so we have to have Medicaid to pay for his autism services."
Governor Edwards has said he will seek to withdraw $119 million from the State Rainy Day Fund to help offset the deficit but he also said cuts could be coming to the Department of Health.
The Taylors ask the legislature not to deprive their son and other children of the treatment they need to develop.
The special session begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, February 13 and it set to end on February 23.