Kansas proposal mandates insurance cover autism, follows Georgia and Utah

Debate over whether applied behavioral analysis should be considered a medical treatment or education.
By JC Sevcik  |  March 10, 2014 at 6:00 PM
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SEATTLE, March 10 (UPI) -- Treatment for autism can be expensive, sometimes costing families anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 a year, and insurers have been historically reluctant to cover some therapies they argue are educational rather than medical.

At the core of this debate is applied behavioral analysis, a therapy which aims to raise a client’s level of independence or functionality through behavioral conditioning -- for instance, a child who is working on developing socials skills might be rewarded with verbal praise or a healthy snack after behaving appropriately during an exercise.

Doctors and parents see ABA as an essential part of treatment for autism, while insurers insist it is simply education and not a medical therapy.

Kansas, one of 17 states that don’t broadly mandate private insurance coverage of autism, saw a proposal in its State Senate last week that would force insurers to cover treatment.

Rep. Scott Schwab, a Republican who chairs the House Insurance Committee, opposed the bill claiming it would drive up premiums, requiring coverage many would never use, and worrying about other specialized coverages, asking: “Who’s the next group to come and ask for a mandate?”

Some critics call the bill’s proposed coverage too narrow, but lawmakers led by Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee say they’ve crafted a compromise with the insurance industry that allows for “some wins on both sides.”

The push for mandating insurance coverage of autism in Kansas comes just two weeks after both Utah and Georgia's state senates passed similar bills.

[Kansas City Star] [Salt Lake Tribune] [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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