Autism Live, in affiliation with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, has created a petition at:
In order to combine advocacy efforts, please click the link above to sign the Autism Live petition. Unfortunately, Change.org does not allow for two petitions to be merged, and having two "competing" petitions defeats the intended purpose of both. I am more than happy to support the efforts of Autism Live, and hope you will join me!
My original petition and it's accompanying comments were delivered to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Tuesday, Dec. 4 with nearly 1,700 signatures! Thank you for your support of this effort. Please lend the same support to the Autism Live petition!
If you are an Ohio resident, please also consider signing my petition in support of an Ohio mandate for autism insurance coverage:
Kim Osburn, MA
U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius urging her to clarify that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for autism is an essential behavioral health benefit under the Affordable Care Act. A copy of that letter appears below. I am writing to thank the Senators for their advocacy on this issue, and to urge you to join their efforts. This crucial clarification to the HHS guidelines would provide therapy for countless children and adults with autism. I also urge you to remove any exemptions for self-funded insurance companies from providing this coverage.
LETTER FROM U.S. Senators to Secretary Sebelius:
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
As you recently noted in remarks to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, access to affordable, quality health care is critical for people with autism and their families. Beginning in 2014, many children and adults with autism will obtain health insurance through qualified health plans that cover the ten categories of essential health benefits specified in the Affordable Care Act. All qualified health plans must provide “mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.” We write to you now out of a shared belief that the benefits offered under this category must be robust and readily available to children and adults with autism.
Clinical trials have shown that early intensive behavioral intervention significantly increases IQ, language abilities, and daily living skills, while reducing the debilitating symptoms of autism. Behavioral interventions that use the methods of applied behavior analysis (ABA) have become widely accepted among health care professionals as an effective treatment for autism. Through decades of research, the field of behavior analysis has developed many techniques for increasing useful behaviors and reducing those that may cause harm or interfere with learning. These advances have changed the trajectory of children’s lives and given new hope to families and caregivers. In testimony this past June before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Personnel, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the use of ABA treatments when determined appropriate by physicians within a medical home and in close consultation with families.
Too often, cost and discriminatory insurance company practices have impeded access to these treatments, preventing their promise from being fully realized. But the barriers are coming down. Thirty-two states currently mandate comprehensive autism care, and starting in 2013 Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plans may offer benefits packages that include ABA.
All people affected by autism should have access to needed treatment. That will not occur under the guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (Essential Health Benefits Bulletin and Frequently Asked Questions on Essential Health Benefits Bulletin). Rather than setting a uniformly high national standard, the guidance allows states to select benchmark plans that neglect or skimp on autism care. The guidance requires states without ABA mandates and states with ABA mandates enacted in 2012 either to defray the cost of ABA coverage or provide no ABA coverage. If the guidance is not changed, children and adults with autism will not be better off when Affordable Insurance Exchanges launch in 2014 than they are today.
According to the December 2011 Essential Health Benefits Bulletin, the benefit category “mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment” should cover the behavioral health services associated with autism treatments and therapies. In our deliberations over the Affordable Care Act, Congress recognized autism as a top national health priority. We intended not to preserve the status quo but to reduce the burdens faced by families across the nation. In finalizing the guidance for the essential health benefits, we urge you to clarify behavioral health treatment as including ABA for individuals on the autism spectrum.