ST. PAUL (May 18, 2013) -- The Minnesota Legislature has sent Governor Mark Dayton a bill that would make Minnesota the 33rd state, and the first in 2013, to enact autism insurance reform. The reforms are included in an omnibus health care bill approved late Friday night 73-61 by the House of Representatives and today 39-28 by the Senate.
Governor Dayton is expected to sign the bill which would take effect in January 2014.
Sponsored by Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester), the measure applies to state-regulated large group health plans which would be required to cover speech, occupational, physical and behavioral therapy, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), up to age 18. An estimated 750,000 state residents would gain coverage. State employees will be added no later than 2016.
The Dayton administration hopes to also extend coverage to the small group and individual markets through the health exchanges it creates under the Affordable Care Act.
The bill also includes co-pay relief for families covered under the TEFRA disabilities program and a $12 million early intervention program for children up to age 18 who are enrolled in the state's Medical Assistance (MA) program. The early intervention program will provide access to behavioral therapy, such as ABA, and will include training for providers in culturally appropriate techniques.
The provisions in Norton's bill were incorporated into HF.1233, the Omnibus Health and Human Services Finance Bill, which was passed by the legislature. The legislation became more urgent after a landmark 2001 court settlement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota expired in late 2011, stripping families of the state's only coverage starting last year.
"Autism Speaks commends the hard work of Representative Norton and the Dayton administration in producing a comprehensive response to the lack of autism coverage in Minnesota," said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks' vice president of state government affairs. "We look forward to continuing our work with our Minnesota champions to extend coverage to all families."
In addition to Minnesota, legislatures in North Carolina, Oregon and Nebraska are considering autism insurance reform bills. Similar measures advanced earlier this year in Hawaii, Utah, Georgia and Tennessee and are expected to be considered again in 2014.
States with existing autism insurance reform laws are expanding benefits. New Mexico has enacted a new law extending benefits under its existing law to public employees. Texas is nearing a final vote to eliminate the age cap on its law and California is moving a measure to extend its 2011 law, set to expire next year, another five years to 2019.