NEW YORK -- Several prominent employers --including Fortune 500 denizens Bank of America, Comcast, Nike and Novartis--have voluntarily introduced coverage of behavioral health treatment for autism in their employee health plans for 2015. Another, JetBlue Airways, will introduce the coverage to its employees in July.
The companies all self-insure their health plans, thereby exempting them from state insurance regulation and statutes, such as autism insurance reform laws. Their health plans are regulated under federal ERISA law.
"These leading companies chose to do the right thing for their employees by voluntarily offering coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)," said Lorri Unumb, Autism Speaks' vice for state government affairs. "When human resources professionals measure the true cost implications of the coverage against the benefit for their employees and their families, the decision is fairly simple. Retaining and attracting dedicated employees brings value to the corporate bottom line."
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According to a 2013 Mercer survey of health benefit plans offered by companies with 500 or more employees, 82 percent offered some coverage for autism diagnosis and treatment. The survey found 36 percent covered behavioral health treatment, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), up from 32 percent the year before. See survey results below:
Joining the list starting with their 2015 coverage are:
Amica Mutual Insurance Company, of Lincoln, RI, with about 3,200 employees.
Established in 1907, Amica says it is the oldest mutual insurer of automobiles in the United States. Amica writes personal insurance for auto, homeowners, personal excess liability and marine coverages.
Bank of America, headquartered in Charlotte, NC, ranks #21 on the Fortune 500 and has about 245,000 employees.
Bank of America serves individual consumers, small businesses, middle-market businesses and large corporations, offering a range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The bank counts 4,900 retail branches and 15,700 ATMs.
Georgia Power, based in Atlanta, is an electric utility with about 8,310 employees.
The company began as the Georgia Railway and Power Company in 1902 running streetcars in Atlanta and now is the largest of four electric utilities owned and operated by Southern Company. Georgia Power serves more than 2.25 million customers in virtually all of Georgia's 159 counties.
Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland, was ranked the second largest pharmaceutical company worlwide by Fortune, with about 135,000 employees around the world. It's global research headquarters are located in Cambridge, MA.
The pharmaceutical giant was created in 1996 through the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz. Its products include prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs, vaccines, contacts lenses and animal health products.
Rock-Tenn, a third Georgia company based in Norcross, ranks #293 on the Fortune 500 with about 26,000 employees.
RockTenn manufactures paper and packaging products. It began in 1898 as Rock City Box Company in Nashville and now operates 245 facilities in the United States and abroad.
TD Bank, based in Cherry Hill, NJ, was created in 2008 through the merger of Commerce Bank and TD Banknorth and has about 26,000 employees.
The bank provides retail, small business and commercial banking products and services to more than 8 million customers in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Carolinas and Florida.
T. Rowe Price Group, Inc, of Baltimore, has approximately 5,372 employees.
The investment firm was founded in 1937 by Thomas Rowe Price, Jr.. and offers mutual funds, subadvisory services, and separate account management for individuals, institutions, retirement plans, and financial intermediaries. Additionally, the organization offers investment planning and guidance tools.
Comcast, headquartered in Philadelphia, took over NBCUniversal in 2011 and now ranks #44 on the Fortune 500, with 136,000 employees.
Comcast is the nation's largest cable company and home Internet service provider and third largest home telephone service provider, operating in 40 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to NBC and Telemundo, Comcast operates E! Entertainment Television, the Golf Channel, and NBCSN, as well as Universal Parks & Resorts.
Nike, headquartered outside Beaverton, OR, ranks #115 on the Fortune 500, and has about 44,000 employees.
Nike designs, develops, manufactures and markets footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories and services. The company is one of the largest international suppliers of athletic shoes and clothing and a major manufacturer of sports equipment. Its distinctive "swoosh" brand was valued at $19 billion in 2014.
In July, JetBlue Airways, which ranks #466 on the Fortune 500, will begin covering behavioral health treatment for autism for its 15,000 employees. The airline, headquartered in New York, primarily serves domestic, Caribbean and Latin American destinations.
JetBlue has partnered with Autism Speaks on the Blue Horizons for Autism program which helps individuals and families affected by autism to experience air travel in a relaxed environment.