Since President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) last year, the impact on coverage for autism benefits has slowly begun to take shape. As federal agencies implement the new law, three U.S. Courts of Appeals have ruled on the constitutionality of the ACA.The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to weigh in by next summer.
Last week, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, proposed a set of guidelines for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to follow in deciding what benefits should gain coverage.The IOM report does not define an autism benefit, but rather lays the groundwork for HHS to issue regulations that may determine autism coverage for affected individuals. Entitled “Essential Health Benefits: Balancing Coverage and Cost,” the report was requested by HHS.
As noted in an earlier blog, words do matter in implementing the ACA. HHS should not ignore congressional intent that the ACA make effective, evidence-based care available to people with autism. Nor should HHS ignore the difficulties families have experienced in accessing proper treatment and the consequences of inadequate care.
With the release of the report, it is now up to HHS to act upon the IOM’s recommendations. In doing so, HHS should bear in mind these findings from the 2005/06 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs:
- 48.6% of children with autism have inadequate insurance (as compared to 32% of children with special health care needs other than autism)
- 31.1% of children with autism have an unmet need for a specific health care service (14.8%)
- 38.6% of families who have a child with autism have financial problems (16.7%)
- 57.2% of families who have a child with autism cut back or stop working (21.7%)
As the IOM recommends, HHS should be guided by a duty to protect the most vulnerable members of society.HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has promised to issue regulations soon.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Autism and the Healthcare Law
As noted earlier, the 2010 healthcare law may have a direct effect on state insurance mandates. At the Autism Speaks blog, Stuart Spielman writes: