When the state decided to transition low-income kids from state-subsidized private insurance — known as Healthy Families –to the state-run Medi-Cal program, families of children with autism were promised that their kids’ treatment would not suffer. But those families soon learned that one especially promising (but expensive) form of treatment was not going to be covered by Medi-Cal.
Since then, those families and other supporters of autism treatment have been lobbying the Legislature to require Medi-Cal to cover the treatment, known as Applied Behavior Analysis. State senators added $50 million to the proposed budget to pay for the treatment for the coming year. But the latest version of the budget approved by budget-writing conference committee deleted that money.
The cut was especially hard to take because state regulators and the Legislature had already required private insurance companies to cover the therapy as part of their mental health benefits. So the state won’t do what it says the private sector must do.
“Particularly at a time when the state’s fiscal outlook is improving, it is unjust to pass a budget that continues to deprive children of medically necessary care and causes serious harm to children with autism and their families,” Jamila Iris Edwards, Northern California Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California, said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. “The State has broken its promise that no child would lose access to critical health care in the Healthy Families transition.”