Thursday, December 13, 2007

Arizona Advocates Preparing for Autism Insurance Push; Group Publishes Autism Speaks Report on Coverage Costs, Benefits

Arizona advocates for health insurance coverage for autism services are planning to hold a rally Tuesday, January 29, 2008, at 6 p.m. in front of the state Capitol building in Phoenix. The event is part of a campaign to get insurance coverage for autism services in the state for children and young adults under age 21.

Advocates have set up a website,, as a home page for news and information about the effort. In addition to keeping Arizona advocates up to date, the group's website hosts an important document that advocates around the country could find useful.

The 23-page document, "Arguments in Support of Private Insurance Coverage of Autism-Related Services," prepared by the national advocacy group Autism Speaks in October, lays out in clear language eight reasons why a state like Arizona should pass laws that mandate insurance coverage of autism services.

The report includes cost estimates based on studies in other states—a few dollars a month added to the average health insurance policy—and benefits: access to services now out of reach of many affected children. The report explains how existing services and government programs, including Medicaid, fall short of what's needed for a growing population of those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. And it brings up an argument heard before: it pays to provide services to children, to help them grow and develop, so that it costs less to provide supports later in life.

The following is a rundown of the arguments, excerpted from the beginning of the report:

Argument 1: Mandated private health insurance coverage will provide services that are desperately needed by children with autism, who have greater health care needs than children without autism.

Argument 2: Treatments for autism are difficult to access, often inadequate, and frequently delayed. Denied coverage by private group health insurance companies, parents are often forced either to pay out-of-pocket or forego the treatments their children need.

Argument 3: Mandated private insurance coverage will bring effective autism services within the reach of children who need them. The efficacy of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the centerpiece of this legislative mandate’s benefits, has been established repeatedly.

Argument 4: Government and scientific organizations have endorsed Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other structured behavioral therapies.

Argument 5: To combat the difficulty many families face in accessing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other structured behavioral treatments through public insurance, three states have passed autism insurance mandates that specifically require private insurance companies to provide coverage of these therapies, thus creating a public-private partnership for the provision of care.

Argument 6: The costs of this insurance reform are small and will have very little impact on the cost of health insurance premiums for the individual consumer.

Argument 7: By improving outcomes for children with autism, mandated private insurance coverage will decrease the lifetime costs of treating and providing services and will actually result in an overall cost savings in the long-run.

Argument 8: Without passage of legislation requiring private health insurance coverage for autism, the costs associated with autism will continue not only to affect families, but will have far reaching social effects as well.

It will be interesting to see how the discussion plays out in Phoenix. A cursory check of the Arizona State Legislature's website indicates that there are no current bills filed relating to autism yet; I will look to update readers when I learn more information.

Also see from Autism Bulletin's archives:

* Michigan to Hold Hearing on Autism Insurance Legislation

* Articles related to health insurance

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