The push to insure coverage for autistic children continues. Just yesterday the Kansas Senate approved the bill that would mandate coverage by a 38-2 vote and sent it to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature.
The passing of this bill comes after a six-year struggle by advocates for children with autism. If the Governor does in fact sign the bill, it will become the 34th state to require autism coverage. The terms of the bill has undergone some changes from when it was introduced last month. Whereas before it would have covered anyone under 18, it now only applies to children under 12. It requires coverage of up to 1300 hours a year for applied behavioral analysis for children up to 6 years old, eventually dropping to 520 hours a year from 6-12 years old. However, there are no age or hour limitations for other autism services.
The mandated coverage would initially apply to insurance plans before the Affordable Care Act and businesses with over 50 employees. Small employers and individuals would be covered starting in 2016. So it is still a work in progress. Democratic Senator Laura Kelley of Topeka says, “It’s a better-than-nothing-bill.” Well, having this bill on the agenda and in the public eye is definitely a good start.
Also passed yesterday was Utah’s SB57 that requires health insurance plans to provide coverage for treatment for autistic children ages 2-9. The disorder affects about 1 of every 54 kids in Utah, and parents are celebrating the progress made with the passage of this bill.
One mother of four, Erin Hansen said she had to take on an extra job just to pay for her 3 year old son’s therapy. She is excited that there will be less stress on her to provide his therapy, which has been helping him with verbal communication and helping himself with morning tasks. As every parent with an autistic child knows, these “small milestones” are huge accomplishments and great sources of joy for these families.
We hope that more bills that provide coverage will continue to go through the senate for states that don’t provide coverage. Shema Kolainu is one of the few schools in New York City that provide free services for autistic kids all over the metro area. We understand the importance of these therapies not only in the child’s life, but the parents as well. As autism month continues, we hope these issues continue to be highlighted in the local and federal political sphere.
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