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Lawmakers Look At Medicaid As Source Of Special Education Funding

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Wyoming is the only state not using Medicaid to cover special education services in schools, and that could be costing the state money.

The Joint Education Committee asked the Wyoming Department of Health and the Department of Education to explore using Medicaid funds for services like speech, occupational, and physical therapy. That's what other states do.

At a committee meeting Wednesday, Dicky Shanor from the WDE told lawmakers that state is spending money when it doesn't need to be.

"The state is just paying for all special education expenses right now on those that would qualify for Medicaid and on those that wouldn't," said Shanor.

Consultants hired to help draft legislation estimate that around 35 percent of special education students in Wyoming could have services covered by Medicaid.

Brian Farmer from the Wyoming School Boards Association expressed concern about the added burden Medicaid billing could put on schools.

"You may have technology costs. You may have personnel costs. You at the very least will have time, energy and effort costs," said Farmer. "So there is going to be some spend in order to have some savings, and I think it's important to know what the net effect is. Not just that we are going to be saving but what's the effort we have to put into it."

The WDH and WDE are working with consultants to draft a plan to transition to Medicaid billing by the 2020-2021 school year pending legislative approval during the upcoming session.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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