States Should Require Insurers To Cover Autism Behavioral Therapy

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The advocacy group Autism Speaks in 2009 will target at least 10 states -- including New York, California and Ohio -- to push for legislation that would require health insurers to cover autistic behavioral therapy, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. The group already has endorsed bills in New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan.

Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana already have approved such coverage mandates. Other states also have approved coverage mandates but are not working with Autism Speaks. Supporters of behavior therapy for autism say that it is supported by decades of research and that it will promote long-term savings by keeping afflicted children out of institutions. The therapy can cost up to $50,000 annually.


The Council for Affordable Health Insurance, an industry lobbying group, estimates that autism coverage mandates will increase the cost of health insurance by less than 1%, but says that when combined with other requirements, the mandates would make coverage less affordable.

America's Health Insurance Plans spokesperson Susan Pisano said that ordering coverage of a specific treatment can lead to problems because sometimes when new scientific information emerges, the mandates are frozen. According to the AP/Times, there also is an ongoing debate about whether behavioral therapy should be classified as a medical or educational treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics includes behavioral therapy in its clinical report on autism but classifies it as an "educational intervention" (Johnson, AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/20).

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