Families, States, Insurance Companies Wrestle with Autism's Costs

Thirty-two states have required state-regulated health insurance plans to cover autism, according to Autism Speaks, an organization that advocates for families.

Autism spectrum disorders are developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Treatments include behavioral, occupational and speech therapy, and experts say early intervention is critical.

Bills to mandate coverage for care are moving along with success in Hawaii, Minnesota and Nebraska, but Autism Speaks is pushing for a law in all 50 states and calling on Congress to mandate all companies not under state jurisdiction to authorize care.

Many companies who self-insure, like Microsoft and Oracle, have already voluntarily done so, according to Autism Speaks spokesman Rick Remington.

"We are calling on the president for a national plan for autism," he said. "Prevalence is on the rise, and we are calling out the government to say enough is enough."

Matt Bengtzen, who works as a manager in local government in Salt Lake City, has two sons with autism, aged 13 and 10.

"The diagnosis was a struggle for us because it was not covered by insurance," he said. "And I have very good insurance."

"We actually have been pretty fortunate, because our children are on the more functional side of the autism spectrum," said Bengtzen, 37. "It's been difficult, but not devastating."

Still, the family has spent at least $10,000 out of pocket on each child so far.

Image: Health care costs, via Shutterstock


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