Tricare’s Extended Health Care Option program, under which ABA was permitted, was limited to active-duty personnel and had an annual cap of $36,000 per enrollee. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended at least 25 hours a week of intense therapy for children newly diagnosed with autism, but the Tricare cap permitted less than 20 hours a week for therapy.Pincus notes that Senator Tom Coburn agreed with the purpose of the Gillibrand amendment but wanted to pay for it with an additional $2 a year from each Tricare prime enrollee. Gillibrand declined his offer to work on a second degree amendment, and her amendment passed.
During the House debate on the measure, Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.), co-sponsor of the amendment, said the cap had to be removed and coverage needed to be expanded to include retired military personnel as well as those on active duty.
Also in May, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted down a similar amendment — sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — to the authorization bill. But after a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing in June, Gillibrand decided to reintroduce the amendment when the bill came to the Senate floor.
On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted overwhelmingly for the Gillibrand amendment, which shifted $45 million from the Defense Department operations and maintenance account in the fiscal 2013 authorization bill to pay for ABA treatment under Tricare. Her amendment increased the House amount and also covered the Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service.
See the Congressional Record as well as C-SPAN video (starting around 5:57:00).