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Legislation that would require insurance companies to cover treatment for people with autism hit a brick wall this week when the House Rules Committee decided against sending it to the full House for debate. Opponents of mandatory coverage say it will drive up the cost of insurance…And insurance companies argue that some treatments are not “medical” and therefore don’t warrant coverage. Earlier this week, we brought you the arguments from both sides in reports from Jefferson City on the issue. Today, we have the perspective from someone who works closely with autistic children. KSMU’s Missy Shelton spoke with a licensed child psychologist about the care autistic children need.
Susie Henderson is the director of the Burrell Autism Center in Springfield. She says autistic children often need different kinds of treatments. And that can be tough news for their parents, especially when there’s no insurance coverage.
One sticking point in the debate over mandatory coverage of autism is something called “applied behavior analysis” or ABA. Because public schools offer this treatment, some insurance companies argue it’s not truly a medical treatment. But Henderson says ABA is an important therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders who are having trouble communicating.
Henderson says in some cases, other kinds of therapies are covered by insurance companies only when they’re necessary for treating a traumatic brain injury. The same treatments for autistic children are not covered. Henderson says providing appropriate treatment to autistic children will save money in the future because once they’re adults, some of them will be able to live on their own or will require less costly therapies.