Autism advocates are expressing joy and relief over a new state law that expands insurance coverage for children with autism, saying it will greatly reduce parents’ financial burden and ensure continued treatment.
The bill, which takes effect this week, eliminates age caps for state-regulated health plans, guaranteeing coverage of autism treatment past age 9.
“It is a very important bill, and one that I am extremely proud of,” said Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, one of the bill’s sponsors. “It’s pretty simple from the standpoint of what it will mean to families.”
The measure drew some criticism in the legislative session as having the potential to drive up insurance premiums. Watson said sponsors compromised on some elements, such as limits on applied behavioral analysis coverage, to ensure it would pass.
While the age caps have been eliminated, to qualify for this extended coverage, children must be diagnosed with autism by the age 10. The average age of diagnosis for a child, according to Autism Speaks, is 5. The age of diagnosis is higher in minority communities.
At Bishop T.D. Jakes’ MegaFest gathering in Dallas this weekend, Autism Speaks presented its Early Access to Care Initiative, which aims for faster diagnoses and increased availability for specialized care.
“This is going to open the door for children who don’t get diagnosed until they are 6 or 7,” said [Judith] Ursitti. “Even when they become adolescents, this will allow their family to access care under their health care provider.”