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GM, Chrysler Start Offering ABA Benefits

DETROIT (July 11, 2013) -- GM and Chrysler have begun to voluntarily offer expanded health insurance benefits for autism, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), to their employees and efforts are underway to convince Ford to also improve its coverage. GM offers the benefits nationally; Chrysler has begun by offering benefits to its Michigan-based workforce.

Information regarding foreign automakers operating US manufacturing facilities was not readily available.

The Autism Alliance of Michigan, which helped enact the state's 2012 autism insurance reform law, worked to recruit the automakers to voluntarily offer autism benefits and is educating other employers in the state which self-insure their health plans to do the same, said Colleen Allen, PhD, the alliance president and CEO.

Employers that self-insure their health plans are governed under federal law (ERISA), which does not require autism coverages, and therefore are exempt from state autism insurance reform laws. Increasing numbers of ERISA employers, however, are voluntarily offering autism benefits, often following the enactment of state autism insurance reform laws.

GM on July 1 began offering autism coverage to its active salaried employees nationwide for children through the age of 18. The benefits include ABA; speech, physical and occupational therapy; nutritional counseling; and other mental health and medical services.

Chrysler launched a one-year pilot program for its Michigan-based workforce on July 1. Salaried employees who reside in Michigan are eligible for ABA coverage for their dependents through 2014. In addition, coverage for speech, physical and occupational therapy was expanded for dependents with autism through age 6.

Under the Michigan autism reimbursement law enacted as part of last year's package of reform bills, both GM and Chrysler will be reimbursed by the state for the costs of covering all employees who are Michigan residents.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for June, the automotive industry employs 806,000 workers in vehicle and parts manufacturing nationally, up 40,000 from June 2012. Michigan had the largest state share with 148,000 workers, up about 4,500 from a year ago.