The bill, which was sent to Gov. Sam Brownback, requires coverage of up to 1,300 hours annually for a therapy called applied behavior analysis for children up to 6 years old, and 520 hours a year for children from 6 to 12 years old. The bill doesn’t limit coverage for age and hours of treatment for other autism services.
The requirements would apply only to insurance plans offered before the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, and only to businesses with more than 50 employees until 2016, when health plans for small employers and individuals would be added.
The bill will help only about 750 Kansas children out of more than 8,000 with autism. Advocates were still pleased, after a nearly six-year fight to make Kansas the 34th state to require autism coverage
Some supporters said a provision of the bill requiring anyone providing applied behavior analysis therapy to be licensed by the state starting in July 2016 could be challenged in the future.
Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, who supported the bill, called the licensing a “huge problem” that could potentially persuade providers to stop offering the service and leave geographic gaps in coverage.
“It’s a better-than-nothing bill,” Kelly said.
Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, said the insurance industry has agreed not to fight the measure but that the Legislature might have to reconsider the licensing provisions next year.
Denny Leak, an autism specialist with Rainbows United, works with kids in the Kansas Autism Waiver Program, a Medicaid program through the state. He said the bill should have allowed for other therapies besides applied behavior analysis.
“I think it should be more flexible, that other evidence-based practices could be employed as well,” he said.
The licensing requirement is another concern for Leak, who said he is a licensed school psychologist but not a board-certified behavior analyst. That requirement in the bill limits the number of providers, he said.
“The good news is, maybe a quarter of the kids out there that really need services may get some help,” Leak said. “Unless there’s not enough providers.”