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The Brief: A New Layer to Fight Over Therapy Program's Budget

A lawyer for a health insurer weighs in on budget cuts for a state Medicaid program that pays for poor and disabled Texans to receive in-home therapy.

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The Big Conversation

A new voice has been added to the heated battle over cuts to a state Medicaid program that pays for poor and disabled Texans to receive in-home therapy.

The Tribune’s Edgar Walters reported that a lawyer for Superior HealthPlan, which covers foster care youths and children with disabilities, told State District Judge Tim Sulak on Tuesday that reducing payments to therapists would not stop the insurer from providing children “all of the services they need.”

Sulak was holding a hearing on a lawsuit in which a group of in-home therapy providers and families of children with disabilities seeks to prevent cuts to therapist payments made through the program. Lawyers for the group argued Tuesday to include Superior in the lawsuit after the insurer told at least one home health care company that it would begin paying providers less money for speech, physical and occupational therapy.

Last year, Sulak had ordered that the state could not cut Medicaid payments at least until the issue went to trial. Lawyers for home health companies argued before Sulak on Tuesday that a private company operating within Medicaid should have to follow the same rules.

The Superior lawyer said the company decided to lower payments independently of the state. The lawsuit continues Wednesday, as an appeals court will hear arguments about whether the state should be kept from immediately moving forward with the cuts.

Trib Must Reads

Cruz Lining Up Support in Texas GOP Delegation, by Patrick Svitek — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz decisively won his home state primary by 17 points in March, collecting more than two-thirds of the GOP convention delegates up for grabs in Texas. More than a month later, he has an opportunity make that victory even sweeter.

Native American Groups Join Effort Against Coal Mine, by Julián Aguilar — Several Native American tribes who say their ancestral lands are being destroyed by a Maverick County coal mine are joining forces in an effort to stop its operation.

Analysis: Take or Leave the Advice on Texas Kids, but Heed the Numbers, by Ross Ramsey — The younger part of the state’s population doesn’t look like the older part, and a new report suggests we should have a look at that before we make a big mess.

Bland Committee Calls for New Jail, Body Cameras, by Johnathan Silver — Waller County needs a new jail, local officers need body cameras to record their activities and the sheriff's office needs to promote civility, a study committee formed after the death of Sandra Bland said Tuesday.

Ryan Broadens Path for Cruz By Dampening GOP Nomination Chatter, by Abby Livingston — Effectively broadening U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's path to becoming the Republican presidential nominee, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted Tuesday he would not accept such a nomination this summer at the GOP convention in Cleveland.

Ahead of Austin Election Over Uber, Local Leaders Take Sides, by Madlin Mekelburg — With less than a month until Austin voters will be asked to decide how to regulate vehicle-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft, advocates on both sides are amping up their campaign efforts.

Cruz Labels Trump a Wannabe Mobster, Incompetent Manager, by Patrick Svitek — In one of the sharpest escalations of Ted Cruz's rhetoric against GOP presidential rival Donald Trump, Cruz called Trump an incompetent manager and said that it appears Trump "can't run a lemonade stand."

As VP Talk Grows Louder, Liberal Groups Attack Julián Castro, by Abby Livingston — Texas Democrats defended Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro after liberal groups aimed to disqualify him from the vice presidential selection process.

The Day Ahead

•    Tribune CEO Evan Smith sits down for a conversation with state Sen. Carlos Uresti and state Rep. Poncho Nevárez at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. The lunch time talk begins at 12 p.m. and will be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.

•    The House Pensions Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol extension. Lawmakers will hear invited and public testimony about the impact that global financial markets have on public pensions and how the committee should monitor agencies and programs under its jurisdiction.

•    The Senate State Affairs Committee will examine changes made to the Employees Retirement System and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), and monitor the electronic voting program for some overseas members of the military. The committee will meet in the Senate chamber at 10:30 a.m.

•    The Joint Interim Committee to Study TRS Health Benefit Plans meets at 1 p.m. in the Capitol extension to review the the health benefit plans handled by the TRS.


Former Gov. Perry endorses Arrington in U.S. House 19 runoff during Lubbock visit, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal 

More must be done to protect Texas children, lawmakers demand, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Gun provisions snag mental health reform bill, The Hill

Trump, Cruz prepare mass-money arms race in California, Politico

Five leave Texas child protection agency in rare regime change, Austin American-Statesman 

Conjoined twins separated, under close watch, Corpus Christi Caller-Times 

Q&A: What is a 'Jesus shot' and what's it supposed to do?, The Associated Press

Haruka Weiser cause of death was strangulation, sources say, Austin American-Statesman 

Paxton faces high hurdles in SEC case, Houston Chronicle

M.D. Anderson among 6 institutions chosen to advance immunotherapy under new alliance, Houston Chronicle

As more CPS bigwigs quit, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus vows to better protect abused kids, The Dallas Morning News

Donald Trump jabs Jordan Spieth for choking at The Masters, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"Donald's whole pitch is he's a great businessman, and yet his campaign right now, it appears he can't run a lemonade stand.”

Ted Cruz unleashing his sharpest rhetoric in months against rival Donald Trump during an interview with conservative radio host Glenn Beck.

Today in TribTalk

What LifeWorks can say about the UT slaying suspect, by Susan McDowell — I have been asked repeatedly over the past few days "what I can say" about LifeWorks' involvement with Meechiael Criner, the suspect in the death of UT-Austin student Haruka Weiser. If he is found guilty of this terrible crime, we will be left to debate whom is to be held responsible for his fate — himself alone, school bullies, foster care, parents? I hold no hope for an easy answer. 

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Dawn Buckingham on April 21 at the Austin Club

•    A Conversation on San Antonio & the Legislature: The Issues in the Interim on April 26 at the University of Texas at San Antonio

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston

•    The Texas Tribune's third Texas-centric Trivia Night on May 1 at The Highball in Austin

•    A Conversation on Mental Health Matters on May 10 at KLRU Studio 6A in Austin

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