Covering Louisiana

May 22, 2013 5:57 PM by AP Photo Credit: Children's Care Hospital & School Sioux Falls and

Parents may have to pay for Early Steps for occupational, speech and other therapies

A proposal by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration to charge middle- and upper-income parents a fee for the occupational, speech and other therapy services their children receive through the Early Steps program received approval from the Senate health committee.

Early Steps offers therapy services for children up to 3 years old who are having troubles with speech, vision and motor control development. About 9,000 children receive services each year.

The House-approved bill (House Bill 375) by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, would allow the state Department of Health and Hospitals to create a cost-share for families on a sliding scale based on their income.

It would allow the department to charge any family with annual income above 300 percent of the federal poverty level -$67,056 for a family of four - a portion of the cost of services through Early Steps. The change is estimated to generate $1.2 million for DHH next year and $1.6 million annually thereafter.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee backed the bill without objection, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.

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