Insurers Balk at Paying for Autism Therapy

Schools now foot the bill, but advocacy group pressing for change
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2008 6:33 PM CDT
Graphic compares the number of autism and mental retardation cases in the U.S., and also shows all disabilities.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A national autism advocacy group is pushing insurance companies to pick up the tab for intensive new therapies now footed by local school districts, the Boston Globe reports. They say the rising number of autism cases will swamp school budgets and make it unlikely that kids will get the help they need. On the flip side, pushing insurers into the education business will “drive up costs for everyone,” says an industry rep, who adds that the therapies—which can run $100,000 a year—are still unproven.

Parents of autistic kids are angry that autism is still treated as a learning disorder. “If my son couldn't hear and needed a cochlear implant,” one said, “we wouldn't be asking the school system to take responsibility. Jack was diagnosed by a neurologist, not a schoolteacher.” Autism Speaks, the largest advocacy group, is pushing legislation in 20 states to require insurance companies to pay up.