This past week, Ohio and Alabama joined 46 other states by now requiring insurance companies within their state to cover autism services. In Alabama, the hearing for bill HB 284 was held Wednesday with a copious number of advocates present. The meeting room overflowed out to the hallway. Opposition from business and insurance communities had no match against the autism community present. Nick Saban, head football coach at the University of Alabama, was just one of the many advocates for the legistlation.
The HB284 mandate will require the Alabama Medicaid Agency to provide ABA therapy coverage to children in the program from low-income families. The mandate also implemented caps for coverage and premium increases. According to al.com, “Insurance policies would be required to cover the costs of therapy up to $40,000 a year for children younger than 10, $30,000 for those between the ages of 10 and 13, $20,000 for those age 14 to 18 and $10,000 for people age 19 and older.”
Unfortunately, this bill will still need to face and pass before the House of Representatives before it is made official legislation.
In Ohio, HB 463 took effect last week requiring most private health insurers to provide “coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism-spectrum disorder.” It also includes that insurers “shall not terminate an individual’s coverage, or refuse to deliver, execute, issue, amend, adjust, or renew coverage to an individual solely because the individual is diagnosed with or has received treatment for an autism spectrum disorder”, as reported by dispatch.com
Doctors typically recommend up to 40 hours a week of ABA therapy which can easily surpass $1,000 a month. Most families struggle to pay for this amount of therapy so choose to either lessen the amount of therapy session for their child or wait until the child enters public school to receive therapy at school. ABA has shown to be most effective in children under 6 years old and waiting until child enters public school at the age of 5 can impact their prognosis, according to Ashlie Walker of Milestones Behavior Group. With mandates implemented in almost every state in the US, one hopes not only other states will catch on but also other countries whose citizens with autism need it most.