Autism…should health insurance cover treatment?

Listening to National Public Radio yesterday morning, I heard a news story about a parent who pushed through legislation in South Carolina to provide insurance coverage for autism services. 

As a person who has been a health care professional for over 25 years, it still amazes me that there is such a disparity and prejudice from our own health care system around diagnoses which are not physically obvious – like mental health and autism. 

Once again, we see that treatment for autism is not covered by insurance based on the fact it is labeled as “education.” Sometimes treatment is not covered when it is considered “experimental” despite evidence supporting it. And then there is the excuse that it is just “too expensive.”

How can this be? 

It’s a pretty well accepted fact that autism is a neurological condition. It is not just a matter of education. We also know that autism IS treatable. The National Academy of Sciences published a book in 2001, Educating Children with Autism, which reviews the treatments that are evidence-based and promising practices. 

Even the U.S. Department of Education admits that for every dollar spent on early intervention, seven dollars are saved in special education and other educational support services.

There are a growing number of states that are instituting laws requiring coverage of autism services.

When a person has diabetes, insurance companies pay for medical treatment. It is time to step up and do the same for individuals with autism. We don’t want people to die because they can’t get treatment for diabetes – nor should we allow people to languish because they cannot access treatment for autism.


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  1. Rebecca Martos Says:

    I agree that it is time that insurance companys step up and start covering our children with autism! We have a 13 yr old son and we have paid out of pocket thousands and thousands of dollars. It has been difficult to do this,but nevertheless we have done it. If we had insurance that would cover our son’s needs, he might be even at a higher functioning level. Because he is high functioning, he doesn’t qualify for many services through DDD and SSI. We feel we’re in a no win situation!

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