Eliminating Medicaid Waitlist for Children with Autism Bill Signed

Eliminating Medicaid Waitlist for Children with Autism Bill Signed

June 2, 2015

Media Contact:
Marc Williams

DENVER, CO – Governor John Hickenlooper has signed a bill into law that will eliminate the waitlist for the Children with Autism Waiver (HB 15-1186) and improve the program’s effectiveness to treat children at earlier ages. The Children with Autism Waiver provides intensive behavioral intervention and treatment for children, from birth to age six, with autism spectrum disorder. The waiver is currently limited to 75 clients and has 330 kids on a waitlist to receive services. The average time on the waitlist has been more than two years.

The new law makes several key changes to the existing waiver:

  • It raises the age limit from 6 years old to 8 years old,
  • Guarantees a three year stay on the waiver for all children who enroll before their eighth birthday,
  • Eliminates the waitlist by allowing the waiver enrollment cap to fluctuate based on need,
  • Allows a one-time increase for the child’s annual expenditure from $25,000 to $30,000 and,
  • Requires an annual program evaluation to measure the overall effectiveness of the waiver services.

“Research shows intensive behavioral intervention is most effective when started at younger ages,” said Susan E. Birch, MBA, BSN, RN, executive director for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. “Signing this legislation is a first, critical step towards eliminating the waitlist that will allow kids to receive services as soon as they are diagnosed and most receptive to treatment.  We are working with our federal partners to give us approval to implement this bill as soon as possible.”

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must now approve Colorado’s plan to eliminate the waitlist before the state can implement the new law. Once approval is received, children can begin being moved off the waitlist to receive services.

“This piece of legislation is a first step in providing much needed assistance to families who have waited years for these waiver services, only to have their child age-off by the time a slot opened up for them,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “We can and must do better to help these kids and families and we encourage our federal partners to join us in this effort.”

More information on the Children with Autism Waiver is available on our website.

About the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing: The Department administers the Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus programs as well as a variety of other programs for low-income Coloradans who qualify. For more information about the department, please visit Colorado.gov/hcpf.