Before I moved to Omaha, I worked at an Autism Therapy Center as an ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapist in Minnesota. My main duties while there focused on providing one-on-one direct care for children on the autism spectrum. The families paid for the treatments through insurance payments, so I saw the direct impact that changes or cuts in health insurance had on the children and families even when the absence from therapy was only a month.
Currently thirty-four states include coverage for autism therapy, four have limited coverage, and nine have a mental health parity. Nebraska and my home state of Minnesota are currently among those with mental health parity. However, Minnesota’s Legislature went forward with a similar bill earlier this month to support its children and families who are faced with autism and they are now on their second Engrossment.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex brain development disorder, affecting areas of the brain that govern communication and social function. It is estimated that 1 in 88 children in the United States are on the autism spectrum.
Treatments for autism are difficult to access, often inadequate, and frequently delayed. When children are denied coverage by private group health insurance companies, parents are forced either to pay out-of-pocket or forego the treatments, and families often cannot afford the necessary services.
When services are delayed or denied to children with autism in the early years of life, critical windows to intervene are lost. But when early and intensive intervention is provided, it results in improved language skills and behavior, raised IQ levels, and greater success in school.
All children deserve to have the opportunity to be healthy and productive adults. Voices for Children strongly supports LB505 because we believe it will increase access to critically necessary services for children who are currently being denied opportunities.
 Dawson, G. et al. (2010) “Randomized, controlled trial of an intervention for toddlers with autism: The Early Start Denver Model.” Pediatrics, 125(1), 17-24.