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Thursday, August 18, 2011

California Bill

Steinberg Pushes Bill to Mandate Insurance Coverage of Autism Treatment; Expands Scope of Services and those who provide them
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
For Immediate Release - Contact: Alicia Trost - 916-651-4006

(SACRAMENTO) — Responding to a recent agreement between the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) and two health care insurers, an agreement which parents of autistic children and advocates called a “sham,” Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is now pushing a bill in the final weeks of session which will eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks for those seeking insurance coverage for autism treatment.

SB 770 mandates coverage of behavioral health treatment, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and other prescribed intensive early intervention therapy, for those with autism. The bill also defines the scope of these treatments and eliminates unwarranted restrictions on those who are qualified to provide the treatment.

“Parents of autistic children shouldn’t have to spend their days and sleepless nights battling with insurance companies because of a lack of clarity regarding this highly effective therapy. ABA has long been considered medically necessary and has proven remarkably effective for a majority of families,” Steinberg said.

Advocates raised concerns that the DMHC agreement created an undue restriction on qualified ABA providers by imposing a licensure requirement that is not required by state law.

“The recent agreement added urgency to clarify who is authorized to perform treatment,” Steinberg said. “We need a more expansive network which includes those who are expertly trained and on the cutting edge of ABA therapy so parents don’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get children the services they need.”

The bill expands the list of qualified autism providers to include any licensed or nationally certified professional, or any provider of these services approved as a vendor by one of California’s 21 non-profit regional centers which contract with the Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Sponsors of the bill include Autism Speaks, Alliance of California Autism Organizations, Special Needs Network, and The Help Group.

From a release by Autism Speaks:

NEW YORK, NY (August 17, 2011) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, joined California families today in applauding Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on his effort to amend legislation that would give families caring for children with autism access to insurance coverage for critical therapies.

“It is long past time for California to join the 27 other states that have enacted autism insurance reform legislation to protect families from the discriminatory practices of the health insurance industry,” said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks vice president of state government affairs. “Senator Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Perez and other legislators, recognizing that the DMHC settlements need to be clarified, are showing the leadership necessary to ensure that families get the treatments their children deserve.”