Autism Speaks today formally endorsed S.365 , the 2013 Oregon autism insurance reform bill, which would require insurers to cover the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism.
Sponsored by Senator Alan Bates (D-Medford), the bill requires that insurance policies cover the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism the same as they do for physical illnesses. It would apply to state-regulated health plans for individuals and small groups. It would also create a state licensing process for ABA practitioners.In Rochester, Minnesota, the Post-Bulletin reports:
The push to require insurers to cover this care has the strong support of two Rochester lawmakers — Assistant House Majority Leader Kim Norton and Sen. Dave Senjem. Norton introduced a bill four years ago to require insurance companies to pay for prescribed autism therapies. The bill has repeatedly stalled, faced with opposition from insurance companies and business groups that argue such a mandate would drive up health care costs. But the Rochester Democrat is optimistic that the bill will clear the DFL-led Legislature this session and notes more than 30 other states have already passed similar legislation.
Norton said she will also push to have autism therapy coverage be part of the state's essential benefits set under the Affordable Care Act. That is the basic amount of coverage that insurance plans have to offer in order to sell insurance as part of an online state health insurance exchange that takes effect in 2014.
Mike Hickey, a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the group will fight the proposal. He said the requirement unfairly targets small business owners who rely on these state-regulated insurance plans while larger employers who are self-insured are exempt.
"It's very expensive and obviously there is a really compelling need, but the fact that we are doing this to struggling small businesses and not covering the Fortune 500 companies is just an inequity we cannot swallow," he said. "That this would be crammed down our throat and not the Mayo Clinic's health plan? It's unbelievable."
Not all business groups oppose the legislation. Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce President John Wade said his organization differs with the state chamber and supports the mandate after studying the issue and the impact autism has on families. Wade has offered to testify in support of Norton's bill at the Capitol.