Parents Press Brown To Approve Bill Clarifying Coverage for Autism
Parents of children with autism in California are urging Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to sign a bill (SB 946), by Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), that would require health insurers to cover applied behavioral analysis treatment, the Ventura County Star reports.
Brown has until Oct. 9 to act on the measure (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 9/20).
Applied behavioral analysis, or ABA, teaches children with autism and similar conditions how to eat, learn and play.
Insurers consider ABA be an educational therapyÂ rather than aÂ medical treatment (California Healthline, 8/25).
Details of the Bill
The bill would clarify the state's mental health parity law -- which requires insurers to cover mental illnesses at the same level they cover physical ailments -- to require coverage of ABA.
According to an analysis by the California Health Benefits Review Program, 7,300 additional insured children would gain access to ABA coverage annually at a cost of $50,000 each, under the legislation.
The costs would result in premium increases of .24% for group plans and .14% for individual policies, the analysis found.
Discussing the Bill
Parents and other advocates for the bill have said ABA treatment already should be coveredÂ under the mental health parity law.
Steven Graff -- director of clinical services for the Tri-Counties Regional Center -- said there is no question of the medical benefit that ABA offers for children with autism. He said the therapy strengthens and reinforces nerve pathways in the brain.
"You're actually making a functional change in the human brain," Graff said, adding, "This becomes in great sense a medical intervention."
Nicole Evans -- a spokesperson for the California Association of Health Plans -- said the requirement could add up to $700 million annually to health insurance costs.
She added that health plans "cover the medical side of treatment, not the life-skills or educational services" (Ventura County Star, 9/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.