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New PresenceLearning Guide Provides a Blueprint for States as they Advocate for Medicaid Reimbursement for Telepractice in Schools

By Abi Mandelbaum
October 7th, 2014

Resource provides methods and insights to help state Medicaid directors build consensus and allow for reimbursement of online speech therapy

SAN FRANCISCO, October 7, 2014 – As unequal access to high quality therapists continues to set back schools and students nationwide, educators are turning to online therapy. However, the adoption of this advance has been slowed by outdated Medicaid reimbursement policies, which effectively disadvantage the schools that are turning to online therapy, or telepractice, to benefit their students.

While 10 states have updated their Medicaid reimbursement policies based on demand from school districts, the vast majority have not despite the fact that research has proven telepractice an equal and effective alternative and that federal funds are available for this purpose.

New momentum has been poured into this policy shift with the approval by ASHA, which in 2005 endorsed telepractice, and CMS, the Federal agency that oversees the Medicaid to schools program. CMS has set out procedures to allow schools to bill for these services, although many school-based Medicaid program managers are not yet aware of this shift. Additionally, many state-level decision makers are unaware that this change can often be accomplished through simple regulatory changes, rather than cumbersome state plan updates or legislation. Additionally, this additional coverage for disadvantaged students and schools can usually be made with no additional state funds, as the Federal government typically covers all school-based reimbursements in this area.

To help states better navigate the Medicaid reimbursement issue, PresenceLearning published “A Guide to Medicaid Reimbursement for Online Speech Language Pathology Services in Schools.” Authored by PresenceLearning’s Vice President of Clinical Services and ASHA Fellow, Melissa Jakubowitz, M.A. CCC-SLP, the free resource provides state Medicaid directors with a blueprint to create necessary change.

To download the guide, visit: http://plearn.co/medicaid-guide

Across the nation, three to four million students have Individual Education Programs (IEPs) dictating the delivery of special education services. However, almost 350,000 of these students go without services and even more are underserved because of shortages in speech-language pathologists (SLPs), particularly in urban, rural and low income districts*. Without Medicaid reimbursement, these districts are often unfairly forced to pay more for services than more affluent districts.

This not only has a direct impact on student achievement, but can also leave districts with legal issues if they do not provide these services or equal and effective alternatives under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

Since 2009, PresenceLearning’s award-winning online speech therapy, online occupational therapy, online counseling, and online assessments have provided schools with a practical, affordable new option for service delivery: web-based access to a nationwide network of live, highly qualified, fully licensed clinicians who are available whenever and wherever they are needed. PresenceLearning also offers online assessments for both speech and occupational therapy. By partnering with PresenceLearning, school districts can address capacity issues related to acute and chronic shortages of qualified clinicians, reduce high caseloads for onsite personnel, reduce their backlog of assessments, improve student outcomes and become more efficient. PresenceLearning also offers access to technical specialists, as well as culturally and linguistically diverse clinicians.

PresenceLearning has delivered nearly half a million live online therapy sessions to students in public school districts, charter schools and virtual schools of all sizes nationwide.

About PresenceLearning
PresenceLearning (www.presencelearning.com) is the leading provider of online speech and occupational therapy, online counseling and assessments for K-12 districts and families of children with special needs. PresenceLearning’s nationwide network includes hundreds of highly qualified speech language pathologists (SLPs), occupational therapists (OTs) and mental health professionals. Therapy sessions are delivered “anytime anywhere” via live videoconferencing using the latest in evidence-based practices combined with powerful progress reporting.

Serving thousands of students in public, charter and virtual schools across the U.S. and globally, PresenceLearning has shown that online delivery of special education related services is practical, convenient and highly effective.

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*PresenceLearning estimate based on a shortage of 7,000 SLPs, each with an average caseload of 50 students.

About the Author:

Abi Mandelbaum

Abi Mandelbaum is CEO of YouVisit.