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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Report on the Missouri Mandate

This is the second annual report to the General Assembly related to insurance coverage for Autism Treatment and Applied Behavioral Analysis. The findings of the first annual report   reflected the fact that 2011 was a transitional year during which much of the infrastructure necessary to deliver the mandated benefits was developed. As expected, data show that the benefits of the mandate were more fully realized in 2012, while the costs as a percent of overall health care costs remained negligible.
1. Coverage. During 2012, all insureds in the small and large group markets were covered for autism and the associated ABA mandate. A much lower proportion, less than one-third, received similar coverage in the individual market, including individually-underwritten association coverage. A few large providers of individual insurance coverage extended autism coverage to all of their insureds. However, Missouri statute only requires autism benefits as an optional coverage in the individual market, and most insurers do not provide it as a standard benefit. For those insurers that do not provide the coverage as a standard benefit, only a negligible number of insureds purchased the optional autism rider.
2. Number impacted. Over 2,508 individuals received treatment covered by insurance for an ASD at some point during 2012. This amounts to 1 in every 548 insureds, ranging from 1/2,765 in the individual market to 1 / 438 in the large group market. These figures are consistent with estimates in the scientific literature of treatment rates.
3. Licensure. The first licenses for applied behavior analysis were issued in Missouri in December, 2010. Between 2011 and 2012 the number of individuals that held Missouri licenses as a behavior analyst grew by 44 percent. As of January 17, 2012, 161 individuals were licensed, and an additional 24 persons obtained assistant behavior analyst licenses.
4. Claim payments. Between 2011 and 2012, claim costs incurred for autism services increased from $4.3 million to $6.6 million, of which $3 million was directed to ABA services. These amounts represent 0.16 percent and 0.07 percent of total claims incurred, consistent with initial projections produced by the DIFP.2 For each member month of autism coverage, total autism-related claims amounted to $0.38, while the cost of ABA treatment amounted $0.17.

5. Average Monthly Cost of Treatment. For each individual diagnosed with an ASD that received treatment at some point during 2012, the average monthly cost of treatment across all market segments was $222, of which $101 consisted of ABA therapies. The average, of  course, includes individuals with minimal treatment as well as individuals whose treatments very likely cost significantly more.
6. Impact on premiums. Given that treatment for autism represent less than 0.2% of overall claims costs, it is very unlikely that such costs will have an appreciable impact on insurance premiums. However, because the DIFP has no authority over health insurance rates and does not receive rate filings, a more exact assessment of the impact of the mandate on rates cannot be provided.
7. Market Segments. This study focuses upon the licensed insurance market (i.e. those entities over which the DIFP has regulatory jurisdiction). Many employers provide health insurance by “self-insuring,” that is, by paying claims from their own funds. Such plans are governed under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and states have little jurisdiction over private employers that choose to self-fund. The Missouri statute does extend the autism mandate to the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHCP), which covers most state employees, as well as all self-funded local governments and self-insured school districts.
The advocacy group Autism Speaks maintains a list of self-funded private employers that have chosen to voluntarily provide coverage autism and ABA therapy to their employees. Among this group are many of the most recognizable “high-tech” companies, including Microsoft, Intel, Adobe, Cisco, IBM, Apple, Yahoo and E-Bay. From the healthcare field are the Mayo Clinic and Abbott Laboratories. Additional companies come from a variety of sectors, from Home Depot to Wells Fargo. Because the DIFP lacks jurisdiction over private self-funded employers, the number of Missourians receiving autism benefits under private self-funded plans is unknown.
Autism Speaks created a “Tool Kit” for employees of self-funded plans to approach their employers about adding benefits to their company health plan. The Self-Funded Employer Tool Kit can be found at: