Senators Want ABA Therapy Deemed ‘Essential’
Members of the U.S. Senate are pressuring the Obama administration to do more to require health insurers across the country to cover autism treatment.
In a letter sent last week to the nation’s top health official, a group of democratic senators said that President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law stands to leave those with autism in the cold unless more is done to ensure that applied behavior analysis, or ABA, therapy is covered.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Congress specified 10 types of health care services that insurers must include in all plans offered to individuals and small groups starting in 2014. One of those benefits is “mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment,” which many autism advocates hoped would be interpreted to include behavioral treatment for those with the developmental disorder.
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However, federal regulators largely left it to the states to determine whether or not autism treatment would fall into the required category. And that has some members of Congress disappointed.
“All people affected by autism should have access to needed treatment. That will not occur under the guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human Services,” wrote Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in their letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
“If the guidance is not changed, children and adults with autism will not be better off when Affordable Insurance Exchanges launch in 2014 than they are today,” the letter said.
The senators are calling on Sebelius to specify that ABA therapy must be part of each state’s behavioral health treatment requirement when the federal guidance on essential benefits is finalized.