Autism Treatment Should Be Mandated Benefit

Article excerpt

We are fortunate to live in a society that values advances in medicine that are based on scientifically sound research.

It's unfortunate that insurance companies such as HMSA have not kept pace with these changes and do not cover proven treatment methods for certain segments of our community.

As a recent article aptly pointed out, such short-sightedness can permanently damage children, keeping them from reaching their fullest potential ("Funding early autism treatment will save money in the future, bill advocates say," Star-Advertiser, April 3).

Health insurance companies such as HMSA have dramatically overstated the cost of providing this benefit and are putting their own interests ahead of residents who have long been paying their health insurance premiums. The whole point of insurance is to spread risk and cost among an entire population, so that catastrophic expenses are not heaped upon specific individuals or groups.

Senate Bill 2054, advancing in the final weeks of this legislative session, advocates a more equitable system for families with children who have autism spectrum disorders. In its current form, the bill would require health insurance plans to cover autism spectrum disorders.

If passed, state-regulated health plans would be required to cover proven treatment methods such as applied behavior analysis, which can dramatically improve the quality of life for children and preempt the need for more costly services down the road. Early diagnosis and intervention is critical, but there can be dramatic results no matter what age treatment begins. The key is to reduce barriers to the care children need.

Evidence suggests that techniques such as applied behavior analysis have been effective at mitigating, reducing or eliminating the effects of autism. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U. …