Massachusetts passes autism bill
A new Massachusetts law aims to make treatment for autism more affordable by requiring health insurance companies to provide coverage for early and intensive interventions. Gov. Deval Patrick said that the law was needed because early intervention in autism improves autistic people’s chances of leading relatively normal lives.
The new law, “An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism” (HB 4935), aims to make diagnostic tests, medical treatment and services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders — including applied behavioral analysis and other critical interventions that are determined to be medically necessary — more affordable and accessible for residents of the state. Also, the law prohibits insurers from establishing any annual or lifetime service limitations on coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders that are less than that for physical conditions. Insurers also may not limit the number of visits an individual may make to an autism services provider.
“Parents have long been faced with the difficulty of getting necessary medical care for their autistic children covered by insurance companies. Studies have shown that by receiving services early, those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder will need fewer services later in life,” said state Senate President Therese Murray. “This law will change existing insurance policy so that we will be able to provide early intervention care to more children with autism, teaching them to communicate and learn at an early age. The passage and signing of this legislation signals an increased understanding about autism and its treatment.”
The Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy provided an analysis for the legislature earlier this year that identified significant financial strain facing families with children with autism, according to the Governor’s Office. The state also reviewed evolving treatment data and concluded that the best-established treatments for autism have shown substantial efficacy.
The legislation goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2011. Download the full text of “An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism.”