Protect Early Steps, Florida’s Part C Program
Early Steps is administered by Children's Medical Services (CMS) in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C. The Early Steps System provides Florida’s infants and toddlers from birth to 36 months who have a developmental delay or a condition that places them at risk for developmental delay with early intervention services and supports that are intended to improve a child’s chances to develop to their full potential by achieving their developmental milestones. These milestones are essential to develop a child’s ability to learn, speak, and move at critical periods that research shows lead to optimal abilities later in life.
The Florida Early Steps System, through collaborative community partnerships and investments, ensures that infants and toddlers with special needs and their families achieve their full potential in the context of everyday relationships, activities, and places.
Funding per child is at a critical level that will force some providers to withdraw participation or offer services that are inadequate in scope and frequency, therefore minimizing the impact that these services can provide.
Managed Care organizations have applied to provide therapy services for all children receiving Medicaid services including those children who receive Part C services. There is a question about whether a managed care entity could meet the federal requirements of providing therapy services in the natural environment, such as the home or child care center. Also, given the already inadequate Early Steps budget, there is a question about how managed care entities make money without limiting services.
This problem is complicated even further by the refusal of Medicaid and insurance providers to pay for any services that are habilitative and do not meet a narrow criteria of medical necessity. Also Medicaid only reimburses travel costs for services performed in a medical setting. These factors strain the already tight Early Steps/Part C funding to take on the payment responsibility for these additional services.
Research has proven over and over again that the time to have the biggest impact on a child’s health and functioning is in the early years. Longitudinal studies have documented the savings to society in the long run by taking care of our youngest citizens now.
The Council’s Position:
- Protect funding to the Part C Early Steps program to effectively
serve all children with a developmental delay.