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Friday, August 5, 2022

DOD Extends Tricare Autism Program

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.  As many posts have discussed, the challenges are especially great for military families.

Patricia Kime at
The Defense Department will extend its program meant to help provide care for military dependents diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder through 2028 to evaluate its effectiveness, the agency announced Thursday.

In a Federal Register notice, DoD officials said research at the University of Rochester, as well as a newly required review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, need additional time, and they have decided to extend the program past its current Dec. 31, 2023, sunset date to support the studies.

The program, formally known as Tricare Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration, was started in 2014.

In March 2021, the program underwent significant changes, with the DoD combining several benefits under one umbrella and broadening services beyond ABA. Under the revised program, Tricare began covering group treatment for autism, if deemed appropriate, and families were assigned a care coordinator to develop care plans and coordinate therapy and treatment.

From its inception, the demonstration project has drawn both support and criticism, with proponents pressing for broad access to early, intense intervention they say contributes significantly to improved quality of life for patients and their families, and the DoD raising concerns about the effectiveness of ABA therapy.

A 2020 DoD report to Congress noted that the current demonstration project "and the delivery of ABA services, is not working for most Tricare beneficiaries."

But a year later, the 2021 report found that 57% of participants in the program made "statistically significant improvements," while 43% showed no improvement or worsening symptoms.