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By W. Gardner Selby December 21, 2016

News-entertainment service incorrectly says Texas killed Medicaid program 'emboldened' by 2016 elex

In case you missed it, Texas Republicans followed on Donald Trump’s election by wiping out aid to needy children.

Except, we confirmed, that's not so.

A news-entertainment website,, topped a Dec. 4, 2016, post, later pointed out to us by Facebook, with this headline: "Emboldened by election, Texas Republicans kill Medicaid funding for kids with disabilities."

The next day, a debunker for said Republicans had cut some Medicaid funding, but they didn’t do so because they were emboldened by the 2016 general election.

And when we emailed inquiring into the basis of its post, especially the headline, we didn’t hear back.

Best we could tell, meantime, the site’s story didn’t back up its headline, instead piling on nonfactual wood: "In an all-out assault on the social safety net, Texas Republicans have seized the opportunity to finalize and enact a series of brutal budget cuts."

Otherwise, the story drew on a Nov. 28, 2016, Texas news story quoting Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, saying the agency would launch the legislated cuts in Medicaid rates starting Dec. 15, 2016, which was several months after the Texas Supreme Court agreed with an appeals court by declining to take up a challenge to the reductions. Plaintiffs had argued the cuts were so steep that providers would have to close their businesses and forgo seeing as many as 60,000 children.

Not in the report: Williams further telling the Texas Tribune, "We will monitor the reduction of rates to ensure access to care is not impacted and that Texans around the state receive the much-needed therapies required to improve their lives."

To our inquiry, Williams pointed out Rider 50, at the bottom of page II-99 of the 2016-17 state budget, which was passed into law in 2015. The rider directs the commission to reform "reimbursement methodology to be in line with industry standards, policies, and utilization for acute care therapy services while considering stakeholder input and access to care." The rider goes on to say that in each of the fiscal years through August 2017, the agency should achieve at least $50 million in state savings "through rate reductions" plus another $25 million a year through policy changes. But, the rider says, additional rate cuts should be imposed to the degree policy-related savings fall short.

Overall, the budget builds in $373 million in reductions in state spending on Medicaid through the two years. For the fiscal year through August 2017, $26 billion in state money was budgeted for Medicaid.

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Williams also guided us to legislative records showing House and Senate votes on the budget; these show that a few Democrats joined ruling Republicans in voting for the final version of the budget -- including the fee-cut language.

News organizations have widely tracked the results of the directive to reduce Medicaid payments to certain in-home child therapists. Those accounts show that no Medicaid funding was entirely killed and also that the reductions put in motion couldn’t have been connected to the November 2016 election results without time-machine trickery.

An April 2016 Austin American-Statesman news story quoted state Sen. Jane Nelson, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, saying lawmakers made the reductions based on information showing Texas’ rates had considerably exceeded Medicaid reimbursement rates in other states, a point disputed by some.

Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said in 2016: "Forcing Texas taxpayers to accept billing rates that are in some cases double the rates in other states would be a terrible precedent. These are rate adjustments, not reductions in services, and the (budget) rider clearly directs the agency to preserve access to care as we bring these rates to an appropriate level."

To our inquiry, Bill Noble, spokesman for the Texas Association for Home Care and Hospice, which opposed the fee reductions, reminded us by email that advocates for providers vigorously challenged the quality of the research behind the fee reductions.

An August 2015 American-Statesman news story quoted Jenny Jones, vice president for governmental and public affairs at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, saying she didn’t know if fee data collected by A&M researchers showed Texas therapists were overpaid compared to peers elsewhere; that was the state commission’s interpretation, Jones said. Noble also emailed us a brief association critique of the research stating, in part, that researchers erred by comparing Texas rates for certain services with rates in other states for other services.

Debate persists. For instance, Joe Straus, the Republican House speaker, said shortly before posted its story that he expects the House in 2017 to reverse the fee cuts. In a Tribune interview, Straus said the cuts were "well intentioned" but that "maybe they were a mistake." Around the same time, the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, which advises conservative House members, updated its report stating that a reversal of the fee cuts "may not be prudent" given an "overabundance" of therapy providers in the state.

Our ruling said: "Emboldened by election, Texas Republicans kill Medicaid funding for kids with disabilities."

Cuts sure happened. But this headline claim, not backed up by the accompanying story, fumbles facts. Specifically, the Republican-majority 2015 Legislature requested fee reductions for specific services to certain children with disabilities--not killing all such Medicaid funding. Also, that action occurred more than 17 months before the November 2016 election.

We find this claim incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

Story, "Texan Beef,", Dec. 5, 2016

News stories, Austin American-Statesman, "Critics say cuts to therapy for disabled in Texas based on bad data," Aug. 5, 2015; "Appeals court tosses lawsuit blocking Texas Medicaid cuts," April 21, 2016; "Medicaid cuts to disabled children in Texas temporarily blocked," July 8, 2016; "Medicaid cuts for disabled children’s therapy services start Dec. 15," Nov. 29, 2016

News stories, the Texas Tribune, "Texas moving forward with budget cuts for disabled kids' therapy services," Nov. 28, 2016   "House Speaker Joe Straus vows to reverse cuts to disabled kids' therapy services," Nov. 29, 2016

Email, Carrie Williams, chief press officer, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Dec. 16, 2016

Document, "GENERAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR THE 2016-17 BIENNIUM Eighty-fourth Texas Legislature Regular Session, 2015 Text of Conference Committee Report on House Bill No. 1," posted by Legislative Budget Board, Oct. 12, 2015

Email, Bill Noble, consultant to Texas Association of Home Care and Hospice, president and CEO, Noble Strategic Partners Inc., Dec. 16, 2016

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News-entertainment service incorrectly says Texas killed Medicaid program 'emboldened' by 2016 elex

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