Autism Insurance Mandates Lead To More Behavior Therapists
With states now requiring health insurers to cover autism treatment, new research suggests that the mandates are having an impact on the number of professionals providing such services.
Researchers with the RAND Corporation and Harvard Medical School analyzed the number of child psychiatrists, pediatricians and board-certified behavioral analysts, or BCBAs, in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. from 2003 to 2017.
In 44 states where an insurance mandate took effect during those years, they looked at the size of the workforce in each of the specialties one year before compared to one year after the mandates were implemented.
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Findings from the study published recently in the journal Pediatrics indicate that implementation of an autism insurance mandate led to a 16% increase in a state’s BCBA workforce one year after the requirement took effect.
Meanwhile, a “modest increase” was seen in the number of child psychiatrists during that time, but there was no impact on the prevalence of pediatricians.
Increases in the provider workforce were most pronounced in states with more generous insurance mandates, according to the study.
However, even with the increases in BCBAs, there still are not enough providers to meet demand, the researchers note. The study found that the increase in behavior analysts associated with the implementation of a state insurance mandate amounted to about one additional provider for every 2,000 children with autism.
“State insurance mandates have had a significant but modest effect on the size of the U.S. workforce for autism-related child health care services, suggesting that other policies may be necessary to address a shortage of care for autism spectrum disorder,” the study authors concluded.