Autism Speaks Endorses Ohio Autism Insurance Reform Bills

COLUMBUS, OH (October 25, 2012) -- Autism Speaks today endorsed bipartisan legislation that would make Ohio the 33rd state to enact autism insurance reform. Bills introduced in the Ohio House and Senate would clarify that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) should be covered under the state's Mental Health Parity Act of 2007.

All five states surrounding Ohio have enacted autism insurance reform laws which bar state-regulated health plans from discriminating against children and young adults with autism by refusing to cover proven treatments, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

The House bill (HB-598) is sponsored by state Reps. Lou Terhar (Green Township) and Cheryl Grossman (Grove City); the Senate version (SB-381) is sponsored by Senator Bill Seitz (Cincinnati). The legislation was unveiled at a Statehouse press conference today attended by Lorri Unumb, Autism Speaks' vice president for state government affairs.

"Autism Speaks looks forward to working with the Ohio Legislature and advocates across the state in bringing relief to families forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket every year to care for their children," Unumb said. "When presented with the facts, the Ohio legislature will make the same choice as every other legislature in the Midwest."

The Ohio Mental Health Parity Act specified that biologically based mental illnesses should be covered by health insurers as a “basic health care service,” but did not include ASDs in the definition of “biologically based mental illnesses.”

The new legislation would simply amend the statute to include ASDs in the definition of biologically based mental illnesses, thereby making it a basic health care service to be covered by health insurers in Ohio.

"It is unacceptable that Ohio stands alone in the Midwest and behind 32 other states in the nation in not guaranteeing its citizens this coverage," Terhar and Grossman said. "...the State Department of Education reports state spending of over $250 million annually in special education costs for children with autistic disorders.  Much of this spending would be avoidable if applied behavioral analysis treatment were made available to children before they reached school age, when it has the greatest chance of success."

The new bills differ from a previous measure that passed the Ohio House. Annual ABA benefits would be capped at $50,000; there is no age cap.  

"The experience with coverage in other states has provided a wealth of data on the true fiscal costs associated with this coverage," said Seitz. "There has been no empirical evidence to show any significant insurance premium increases."