Minnesota Reforms Autism Insurance Coverage, Next Step for The Nation?

The Minnesota Legislature has proposed the first bill of 2013 to reform insurance coverage for autism. The health care bill encompassing autism coverage reform was approved by the House of Representatives on Friday and by the Senate on Saturday. It is estimated that the changes would benefit 750,000 Minnesota residents who are insured by state-regulated large group health plans, which will be required to cover speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral therapy for residents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The changes will begin January 2014 and are effective until the insured party turns 18 years of age. Similar reform is being considered in North Carolina, Oregon, and Nebraska.

Minnesota’s success is a step in the right direction, but we still have strides to take in supporting the large subset of our nation’s population living with autism. The insurance coverage accounts for autistic youth, but estimates suggest that 60% of the reported costs related to ASD are in adult services and, due to the rapidly rising occurrence of autism, annual costs are anticipated to reach $200-$400 billion in the next ten years. Individuals with autism, on average, account for $3.2 million over their lifetimes, totaling $60 billion annually.[i] Greater insurance coverage for early intervention strategies for youth with autism will help to alleviate the daunting figures above by making a portion of our population with autism more independent and able to participate in society, but for those whose symptoms prohibit sustainable income or self-reliance, extended support is necessary. With the rate of autism diagnoses rising, we need to create a sustainable system of care. Greater, continued insurance coverage for our adults with autism is a necessary part of that process.

What changes would you like to see with your insurance coverage?

[i] Autism Society estimates based on UK study by Jarbrink K, Knapp M, 2001, London School of Economics: “The economic impact on autism in Britain,” Autism, 5 (1): 7-22; Arch Pediatric Adolescent Med. 2007;161:343-349.

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