SALT LAKE CITY (November 5, 2013) -- Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams yesterday unveiled his proposal to extend autism insurance benefits to county employees. If approved as part of the county's 2014 budget proposal, the autism coverage would be the first in Utah which has the nation's highest rate of autism prevalence.
“This is not only the right thing to do for the families of county employees, it will also save the county money in the long run,” McAdams [left] said at a news conference as reported in the Deseret News. The proposal is subject to approval by the Salt Lake County Council and would take effect April 1, 2014 if adopted.
“What is happening today is nothing short of a miracle,” Lt. Shanda Gonzalez, an employee of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office whose 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism at age six, told the News.
Under McAdams' proposal, up to $36,000 a year in autism therapies would be provided to children through age 9; for children aged 10 to 18, $15,000 a year would be covered. The county has approximately 4,000 employees.
The Utah Legislature has declined to move autism insurance reform legislation in recent years, opting instead for a pilot program serving approximately 300 children. One of just 16 states yet to require autism insurance coverage by law, Utah has over 18,000 children diagnosed with autism, according to estimates by the Utah Autism Coalition.
Based on nationwide prevalence monitoring by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Utah has the highest prevalence of autism of any state at 1 in 47 children. The nationwide prevalence is 1 in 88 children.
In addition, studies have found the prevalence of autism in Utah jumped 157 percent from 2002 to 2008, while the increase in developmental disorders nationwide increased by 78 percent.