Special education Medicaid reimbursement advanced

Senators advanced a bill March 24 that would allow schools to seek Medicaid reimbursement for a broader array of services delivered to Medicaid-eligible special education students.

LB276, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, would allow school districts to seek reimbursement for audiology services, counseling, psychological and behavioral services, nursing, nutritional services, personal assistance, transportation, social work and vision services.

Nebraska schools currently are limited to seeking reimbursement for three types of services, Nordquist said, and the bill would allow reimbursement from the federal government for a greater array of services.

“We’re expanding beyond the current services of physical, occupational and speech therapy,” he said. “Our schools are already providing these (additional) services to special education students but can’t seek reimbursement.”

Nordquist offered an amendment, adopted 31-0, that replaced the bill.

The amended bill would require the state Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Education, before Oct. 1, 2015, jointly to revise the statewide billing system to simplify the claims process, update reimbursement rates and incorporate the new services into the state plan.

After the reimbursement rates have been updated, they would be reviewed at least once every five years.

The amendment would appropriate $2 million in annual funding to the Early Intervention Act and retain the current reimbursement rate of 11.5 percent of federal Medicaid funds.

The departments also would certify by Dec. 31 each year the aggregate amount to be included in the formula for Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) aid to be calculated for the next school fiscal year, minus the amount for the current school fiscal year for school districts that are not receiving any equalization aid.

Cedar Rapids Sen. Kate Sullivan supported the bill, saying it would result in reduced TEEOSA aid and keep benefits within the districts that already are providing services to special education students.

“This turns out to be really fiscally neutral,” Sullivan said.

Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski agreed, saying the bill would increase aid to schools without using state and local funds.

“We have the potential to bring in an additional $20 million to the state in federal dollars,” he said.

The bill advanced to select file 30-0.

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