Autism, Legislation and Insurance

Autism is expensive. Children diagnosed often require multiple therapies for years. ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social skills therapy, psychiatric care and any medications required are all extra expenses not covered by insurance in every state. ABA alone may cost $100 or more an hour and patients often benefit the most from daily therapy sessions lasting multiple hours.

Many families struggle financially to cover these expenses, or their children have to simply do without and struggle through life as best they can. Insurance is key to helping provide the therapies needed for autistic children.

Currently there are 38 states that do require insurance companies to cover at least some of the costs that parents have had to pay out of pocket in the past. This required coverage has had several benefits. Autism Daily Newscast has continued to report on update regarding insurance coverage on at least a dozen occassions over the past two years.

Because insurance covers the cost more families are able to take advantage of therapies that help their children. With early intervention many of these children are able to grow into productive adults who do not require ongoing treatments or services as adults. They may also be more capable of finding and keeping a job. This not only benefits them as individuals, but reduces expenses for taxpayers over the next 50 years.

This increased demand or therapy also creates an increase in the number of therapists to fill this need. In states where insurance coverage is not required the number of ABA therapists, for example, are far fewer than in states where this therapy is covered. As families are often not able to pay for the therapy, there are not enough paying patients to support a practice.

Currently there are several states with legislation pending to cover autism expenses  The Georgia Senate committee passed a bill requiring health insurance coverage for children with autism, its future is cloudy in this year’s session of the General Assembly. Mississippi has a bill that recently passed the House Insurance Committee. This bill has a better chance of passing now that one of the largest insurance companies in the state is backing the bill. Blue Cross and Blue Shield already covers autism expenses for its clients and they have put their full support behind this bill.

Getting the backing of insurance companies is key to getting this type of legislature to pass. Autism organizations, parents and even legislators are often not enough to overcome the insurance lobbyists. While legislation is not the complete answer, it is a vital step towards getting autistic children the services they need.

Other states currently considering coverage legislation include North Carolina, Tennessee and Hawaii.