Utah is one of the states that does not require private health insurance companies to cover Applied Behavior Analysis treatment for autism. This is causing families to be unable to afford the care that their child requires. Utah’s pilot program for coverage of ABA is not helping this situation.
Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a scientific approach for evaluating behavior. ABA is used as a form of treatment for autism. It teaches social, motor, and verbal behaviors, and it also teaches reasoning skills. It is especially helpful for children who have an autism spectrum disorder that are unable to naturally “pick up” social skills in the way that children who do not have autism are able to do.
Several states require private health insurers to include coverage for ABA treatment in standard health insurance policies. Utah is not among those states. Since it isn’t required, many private insurers are choosing to opt-out of offering this type of coverage.
This leaves families in Utah struggling to be able to afford it out of pocket. There is a growing trend of families who have decided to move out of Utah, and into a state that does requires insures to cover ABA. It is a desperate attempt to try and provide their child with what he or she needs.
Utah recently launched a two-year pilot program that is designed to help families afford the autism treatment their children require. Unfortunately, this program is insufficient.
Parents in Utah who are working as a public employee are able have their child receive up to $30,000 worth of behavioral treatment each year. However, families who are covered by the Public Employees Health Plan are required to contribute $6,000, per year, in order to take advantage of the maximum financial benefit for ABA treatment. Families are finding that they cannot come up with an extra $6,000.
Another problem with this pilot program is the age restriction. It will only cover children who are from age 2 to 6. This leaves out all children who have an autism spectrum disorder who are age 7 or older. The result is that only half the available slots in this program, 25 out of 50, that are available for children of public employees have been filled.
The pilot program will soon include a Medicaid portion, that will start this Fall. There are going to be 200 slots available. Children who are chosen for this program will be selected at random, and not based on how severe their autism spectrum disorder is. It is expected that there will be many more parents signing their children up for this assistance than what the program is actually able to provide for.
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