Bill mandating insurance coverage of autism emerges in Kansas - KCTV5

Bill mandating insurance coverage of autism emerges in Kansas Legislature

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Kansas lawmakers will hear from opponents Wednesday of a bill that mandates insurance coverage for children with autism.

Autism advocates have fought for a proposal like this for years, but even they aren't supporting it 100 percent in its current form. They say it could make matters worse by hurting more children than it helps.

Michael Wasmer, associate director of state government affairs for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, fights to get insurance coverage for life-changing treatment.

"A year without treatment could be the difference between the child going on and being a productive, tax-paying citizen and being dependent on a lifetime of adult disability supports," Wasmer said.

Prescribed treatment for autism is known as applied behavior analysis (ABA). It can cost families up to $60,000 a year out of pocket.

A Kansas house bill would require private insurance coverage for autism, but it's not pleasing everyone.

"We do not support the bill as written," Wasmer said.

Rep. John Rubin, of Shawnee, wrote the bill with insurance companies. It would extend coverage to 250 children next year and would cover 10 hours of ABA each week. Advocates want 40 hours.

"It is no different than a parent of any child with any condition. We're not going to be happy if your child is prescribed a certain dose of antibiotic, and they only get half of it. We're not going to be happy if your child breaks his arm, but they only partly fix it," Wasmer said.

The bill also requires that ABA providers be licensed by the state. Wasmer argues that will cut services, making it harder to get treatment.

"What has been frustrating is that some state legislators have been quoted saying that the autism community will not be happy with anything that passes," Wasmer said.

One of them is Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick.

"Regardless of what the final bill looks like, there will be more coverage for children with autism next year than they are currently receiving," he said in a statement.

KCTV5's Erika Tallan tried reaching out to Rubin, but he did not respond for comment.

The Kansas Insurance Commission is not taking a side. It says this is between the insurance companies and the proponents, but it does feel the insurance companies are looking out for the families affected by autism.

After Wednesday's hearing, lawmakers will take a vote. If it passes, it'll go to the floor for debate.

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