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Washington State Kids Win Again In Federal Court

SEATTLE (January 27, 2014) -- A U.S. District Court judge has ordered Regence BlueCross to stop denying claims for speech and occupational therapy for children with autism after the age of six.

The preliminary injunction issued by Judge Richard A. Jones marks the latest legal victory for Disability Rights Washington and a Seattle law firm which have filed eight class action lawsuits against Washington state insurers over denials of claims for services for children with autism. The suits allege the denials violate Washington's Mental Health Parity Act.

Jones' order will remain in affect while the class action lawsuit against Regence proceeds. The plaintiffs, represented by Ele Hamburger [above] and Rick Spoonemore, are seeking reimbursement for wrongfully denied claims going back to 2006.

Spoonemore told The Seattle Times that the Regence order was the largest yet among the various cases and could affect tens of thousands of children. In addition to Regence, actions have been filed against Group Health Cooperative, Molina Healthcare, Premera Blue Cross and the state's Medicaid and public employee health benefits programs.

Last year, state workers agreed to a $3.5 million settlement with the Washington State Health Care Authority to reimburse the out-of-pocket costs they paid for applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatments after their insurance claims were denied.