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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Minnesota Blues

Minnesota currently does not have an insurance mandate, though a state representative has introduced one, with the support of Autism Speaks. At The Pioneer Press, Christopher Snowbeck reports:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will begin dropping coverage in most cases for a costly therapy for autistic children as early as Jan. 1 - a change that has patient advocates worried about losing coverage through a key state program, too.
The Eagan-based health insurer said Monday that the coverage change will be phased in over next year and affect about 200 children who have been receiving a treatment known as early intensive behavioral intervention. The treatment cost averages about $80,000 per year....
In February 2009, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association published a report on the effectiveness of early intensive behavioral intervention based on Applied Behavior Analysis. Although the therapy was described as one of the "most commonly cited and best-researched interventions" for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, the report concluded that the quality and consistency of study results for the therapy were weak.
"No conclusions can be drawn from this literature on how well (the therapy) works," the report states.
Advocates such as [Amy] Dawson [of the Autism Law and Advocacy Center] have a starkly different view.
Not all children with autism spectrum disorder currently receive intensive behavioral therapy, Dawson said, adding that the treatment won't allow all autistic children to achieve complete independence.
"But anyone who has had a kid benefit from it can tell you all about the results," she said. "My own son has gone from completely nonverbal with an IQ below 50 to an IQ above 100 and now having one of his problems being that he talks too much."
A recent article in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders concludes that that data "strongly support" the effectiveness of early intervention.

See also a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.