South Dakota House Votes 57-12 For Autism Insurance Reform

PIERRE, SD (February 24, 2014) -- The South Dakota House of Representatives yesterday approved an autism insurance reform bill 57-12 and sent the measure to the Senate. As amended by a House committeee, the bill, HB.1257, sets no dollar or visit caps on treatments, or age limits for receiving treatment, which includes applied behavior analysis (ABA).

Rep. Scott Munsterman, the chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said the bill would apply to health plans covering 60,000 to 90,000 South Dakotans. In response to criticisms the legislation would not cover more individuals, he said it could be amended in the Senate to be broader.

Much of the floor debate on the bill involved criticisms of the insurance industry. In response to an industry claim that autism coverage would raise premiums as much as $7 per person per year, Rep. Charlie Hoffman said, "$7 a year? That's peanuts, we blow that out of our gas tank driving around town every day."

Rep. Scott Ecklund [left], a Sioux Falls physician, said the state has only two developmental pediatricians, both of whom practice in Sioux Falls. One told him that ABA has over 30 years of evidence to support its use as a medical treatment for autism, but that without insurance coverage too few families can access the therapy for their children.

Ecklund went on to mock the insurance industry's complaints about mandates. "As a physician, the insurance companies mandate me all the time with their requirements," he said.