A California regulatory agency said Monday that the state’s health insurers must provide speech, occupational and physical therapies, but not behavioral therapy, to people with autism.

The California Department of Managed Health Care spelled out the obligations in a letter to insurance providers in the state. It’s a win for insurers who have been arguing that behavior therapy, such as applied behavioral analysis (ABA), is an educational obligation rather than a medical one.

Parents of children with autism, however, are disappointed by the move since increasing evidence shows the effectiveness of ABA therapy for children with autism, reports The Los Angeles Times.

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The move comes as advocates across the country push for legislation mandating insurance coverage of autism. Recent lawsuits filed against insurers in California and Michigan also seek to pressure insurance companies to cover autism related therapies.

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Previous stories on this topic:

Judge Tells Insurer To Prove Behavior Therapy Is Experimental (March 9, 2009)

States Consider Insurance Bills, But Economy Deals Blows (February 20, 2009)

Insurer Kaiser Sued For Declining Therapy For Kids With Autism (February 11, 2009)