Senate Committee Passes Autism Insurance Legislation

Posted at: 03/22/2013 9:33 PM
Updated at: 03/22/2013 10:38 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- A Senate Committee has just okayed a bill that would mandate insurance coverage for a therapy used to treat autism. We're told the bill has been in the works for four years, and supporters say Friday it jumped a major hurdle. The bill would force private insurance companies to pay for a certain type of therapy for those with autism.

The bill includes ABA or EIBI treatments, they’re more rigorous forms of therapy that are typically done at a young age. Those with the RT Autism Awareness Foundation say this therapy can cost somewhere around $60,000 to $70,000, and some families just can’t afford it.

Just like any kid, 8 year old Jesse Seegmiller enjoys to laugh and watch his favorite Disney movies, but at the age of 4 he was diagnosed with autism. "He's quite a busy boy with all the therapy, but he's come a long way," said his mother Sara Seegmiller. Busy attending an autism center, taking special education courses at school, and getting therapy called "applied behavior analysis", or ABA.

"When he got diagnosed with autism, that was Mayo Clinic's big, top therapy at that time," said Sara. She says this therapy is why he's doing so well. "I don’t know if he would have come this far this fast without that therapy." said Sara.

However, Jesse's care is paid for by medical assistance, not by her insurance. Private insurance companies currently are not required to cover it. "Imagine that your child gets diagnosed, your doctor says this is what your child needs to improve their quality of life, then nobody will help them out. It's a pretty empty feeling," said Bradley Trahan. He works with the RT Autism Awareness Foundation and has an autistic son.

Trahan says this bill would take the burden off families. "It will mandate these insurance companies that when you get this medically prescribed therapy, they’re going to have to start providing coverage for these families and these kids," said Trahan.

He argues that care early on, like this, can have a big impact on these kids' future. "We must invest now to improve the skill sets of these individuals so one day they can be tax payer and not tax recipients," said Trahan.

Mothers like Sara hope to see this one pass, for the sake of other families. "No child should not be able to get the therapy and have the chance to be what they can be," she said.

Critics of the legislation say there are other treatments that are currently covered and the costs would run companies into the ground.