Kansas Senate approves insurance for autism

Autism

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would require insurance coverage for some children under the age of 12 with autism represents progress but still contains flaws, advocates for the children said after the measure was approved by the Kansas Senate and sent to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that requires coverage of up to 1,300 hours annually for a therapy called applied behavior analysis for children up to 6 years old, and 520 hours a year for children from 6 to 12 years old. The bill doesn’t limit coverage for age and hours of treatment for other autism services, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/1fzJz65 ).

The requirements would apply only to insurance plans offered before the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, and only to businesses with more than 50 employees until 2016, when health plans for small employers and individuals would be added.

The bill will help only about 750 Kansas children out of more than 8,000 with autism. Advocates were still pleased, after a nearly six-year fight to make Kansas the 34th state to require autism coverage.

“We’re very excited,” said Mike Wasmer, a national advocate for the group Autism Speaks. “It is not perfect. There are some flaws. But it is clearly a step in the right direction. It’s going to help a lot of kids.”

Some supporters said a provision of the bill requiring anyone providing applied behavior analysis therapy to be licensed by the state starting in July 2016 could be challenged in the future.

Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, who supported the bill, called the licensing a “huge problem” that could potentially persuade providers to stop offering the service and leave geographic gaps in coverage.

“It’s a better-than-nothing bill,” Kelly said.

State Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, said the insurance industry has agreed not to fight the measure but he said the Legislature might have to reconsider the licensing provisions next year.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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