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Autism law takes effect Sunday

Legislation ensures the autistic have access to proven therapies

Posted: June 30, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 30, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Advocates for the autistic Friday heralded a law taking effect Sunday that requires health insurance providers to cover all clinically proven types of behavioral therapy for people with autism.

“(The therapy) is necessary, as many of us without the behavior therapy would be at a complete loss as to how to improve,” said Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, mother of an autistic son.

“I’ve tried many therapies with my child, but the one that has shown the most improvement is the ABA therapy,” said the spokeswoman for the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, which provides the applied behavior analysis therapy that was previously unfunded.

The law that takes effect Sunday requires insurance providers to cover applied behavior analysis therapy, which is considered the most effective treatment for autism, said Bryce Miler, contracts director at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders.  

Although a 2000 law required autism to be covered by insurance, it didn’t mandate coverage for behavioral therapies because they weren’t explicitly named in the law.

The Santa Clarita Valley has a relatively large population of autistic individuals, but the developmental disorder is on the rise nationwide.

“It’s definitely a good thing for families,” Victoria Berrey, treasurer of the Santa Clarita Autism Asperger Network, said in October when the law was signed.

“It’ll allow more children to get the services they need early on.”

Autism is a developmental disorder that is usually diagnosed in the early years of a child’s life. It is often evident by a child’s inability to interact with peers, play or communicate. The condition requires specialized therapy to overcome.

Though some insurance companies have already started offering services, coverage becomes available Sunday under SB 946 for all families with qualifying plans.

All fully insured plans that are regulated by the California Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance will be covered with no dollar maximums or age limits.

“California’s law is better than most because it allows carriers to provide whatever services they need and not have a dollar maximum,” Miler said.

Applied behavior analysis therapy teaches autistic children how to improve social and communication skills and inhibit repetitive behaviors that hinder their ability to participate in social activities.

Before the law, families could only get funding for ABA therapy through the state-funded regional centers or occasionally through school districts. Funding from both sources is decreasing due to budget cuts, Alspaugh-Jackson said.

Alspaugh-Jackson’s son has been receiving ABA therapy since he was 4 years old through a regional center, and she worried funding would run out.

The coverage enables families to begin ABA therapy at younger ages, making for a better recovery.

“Unfortunately, we got the treatment late because they recommend it at age 2,” Alspaugh-Jackson said. “I’ve seen the difference this kind of therapy can make.”

For more information on insurance workshops, call 818-345-2345, ext. 270.


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