A behaviorally based treatment for autism that is widely considered one of the most effective ways to help children with the condition will come within reach of thousands of California families when a new law kicks in July 1.
Until now, insurance companies have classified the treatment, which can involve several hours per day of therapy and cost thousands of dollars each month, as educational rather than medical.
The new state law, however, will require most plans to cover it.
“It’s very important that insurance companies fund this because it’s medically necessary,” said Dr. Susan Schmidt-Lackner, an autism specialist who is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA. “Behavioral interventions are one of the mainstays of treatment for autism.”
The treatment, called applied behavioral analysis, involves no medication and no special diets. Instead, therapists use a highly focused reward system to distill even the most complicated human interactions into a series of very simple steps that almost anyone can learn.