Autism advocates pleased with insurance legislation

Just a few days into Autism Awareness Month, hundreds of children with the developmental disorder in Kansas could soon qualify for insurance coverage.The House and Senate have both passed a bill which now goes to Governor Sam Brownback.Advocates say this is a step in the right direction.”I’ve been fighting for it for years,” says Mari White, who has a son with Autism.
“I can’t tell you how many times I was up at the capital sitting in on testimonies and listening to the stories and so I was really excited when it passed,” White says.The bill, now waiting for Governor Brownback’s signature, requires insurance coverage for certain children with Autism under the age of 12.

“The average age of diagnosis in Kansas is over 4 years of age,” says Jim Leiker with the Easter Seals Capper Foundation, “Children can actually be diagnosed and start receiving treatment as early as 18 months.”White says making Kansas the 34th state to require autism coverage will help get kids the services they need as early as possible.

“Once they get that early diagnosis you can get treatment started, by the time you hit kindergarten a lot of those kids don’t even need special ed anymore, they can be mainstreamed which costs a lot less, ” White says.Many advocates hope this recent legislation is a sign of more changes to come.

“There is a huge need for more legislation down the road for those adults because once they hit 18, it’s like they drop off into nowhere and there’s nothing for people with autism when they become adults,” White says.This bill would help about 750 kids out of more than 8,000 with autism in Kansas.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go and we’re optimistic that we’ll get there,” Leiker says.These requirements would only apply to insurance plans offered before the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010 and only to businesses with more than 50 employees until 2016. That’s when health plans for small employers and individuals would be added.

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