A federal advisory panel is calling on the Obama administration to establish a minimum standard for autism insurance coverage.
The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, or IACC, voted unanimously on Tuesday to send a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius highlighting the vast differences emerging as states determine what type of treatments insurance providers will be required to cover under the new health care reform law.
At present, the committee indicated that about half of states are expected to include treatment of applied behavioral analysis, or ABA therapy, and other autism-specific behavioral interventions in their “essential health benefits” — 10 categories of treatment that most plans will be required to provide starting next year. Other states may mandate that little to no autism treatments are covered by health insurers, the panel said.
The inconsistency among states is cause for alarm, according to the IACC, a committee made up of government officials and members of the autism community.
“If benchmark plans in all states do not provide robust and consistent coverage of autism-specific behavioral interventions, we are concerned that some families will be forced to migrate to find coverage while others will not have access to treatments that can mitigate lifelong disability,” the committee wrote in a draft letter to Sebelius that is expected to be finalized and sent in the coming days. “A federal minimum standard of autism coverage should be set.”
The letter from the IACC comes just weeks after the Obama administration declined to include any mention of ABA or autism behavioral therapy in final rules regulating the essential benefits portion of the health care act.
Advocates had hoped that such therapy would be included under the law’s mandate to cover “mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.”