Legislative leaders say they're trying to work out a compromise between a bill to mandate health insurance coverage for autism, and another bill that seeks to discourage any insurance mandates in Utah.
That compromise likely will not be similar to laws now in effect in 29 other states that do require health insurance plans to pay for treatment for autism spectrum disorders, said Utah House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper.
While details of that plan have yet to be worked out, he said, it would likely involve a fund to which health care insurers would make voluntary contributions to help families pay for their children's treatment, Hughes said.Anita Kumar writes at The Washington Post:
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has signed a bill — again — to provide insurance coverage for families with autistic children, according to his office.
McDonnell (R) had originally signed a bill into law last spring mandating coverage, but Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) determined that the legislation contained imprecise languagethat legislators needed to correct.
Since then, families who expected insurance coverage have continued to pay out of pocket — if they can afford it — or forgo treatments they say could help their children learn basic skills such as walking and talking.
The bill directs the state to write regulations within 280 days for those who teach applied behavior analysis to autistic children. That means coverage should start by the end of the year.
A bill to expand autism treatment by amending legislation passed last year that mandated insurance coverage for autism diagnosis and treatment in children is awaiting consideration in the Rhode Island General Assembly.
The House of Representatives and Senate bills — sponsored by state Rep. Peter Palumbo, D-Cranston, and state Sen. Edward O'Neill, I-Lincoln, North Providence and Pawtucket — would slightly alter the wording of last year's law by adding psychiatric, psychological and pharmaceutical treatments to the list of services insurance providers must cover. The current law specifies mandatory coverage for speech, physical and occupational therapies.
The amendment would shift the focus toward earlier intervention in diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorders, O'Neill said. The amendment would also require that practicing behavior analysts — specialists who work with and recommend resources to people recently diagnosed with autism and other brain-based disorders — be licensed with the Rhode Island Department of Health. The law currently allows any licensed health care provider to practice applied behavior analysis.
The legislation moved forward after being endorsed by the state's Joint Commission to Study the Education of Children with Autism, said Judith Ursitti, the director of state government affairs for Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization. Ursitti, who has worked to get similar laws passed in other states, testified before the commission on the importance of both last year's legislation and the proposed amendments. Palumbo also chairs the commission.