A Bi-Partisan Miracle: Federal Employee Health Plans Add Critical Autism Benefit

A first glance, this doesn’t seem like a big deal:

Federal employee health-care plans will have to cover applied behavior analysis for children on the autism spectrum starting next year, and they are being encouraged to step up the incentives for enrollees to participate in wellness programs.

But that’s only until you understand what applied behavior analysis actually is and why it’s one of the single most vital steps in helping children cope with autism. ABA is a form on one-on-one tutoring that can start with children under two years of age (my own son, Jordan, started at about 19 months).

This tutoring varies from child to child. In Jordan’s case, he learned how to focus on the task in front of him and how to behave in a teacher/student setting. He did this for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week for a little over a year. By the time he went to Early Intervention schooling (another critical component), Jordan was capable of being a student and has been steadily progressing from there.

It’s hard to overstate how important ABA is for children with autism. It’s an incredibly time intensive program taught by highly trained professionals, which means it’s very expensive. A full week program is certainly out of the reach of anyone not in the upper middle class and beyond. Making it a mandatory part of federal health care is literally a life-saving and life-changing event for countless parents and their children. I can say with absolute certainty that Jordan’s ABA teacher helped him reach out of himself at a time where he couldn’t even point to something he wanted because the very idea of directly expressing a need was completely foreign to him.

The best part of this is that it’s a bi-partisan effort, meaning the usual gridlock will not impact the families that need help the most:

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, called the requirement “a milestone that will help ensure families across the country using ABA therapy will no longer have to pay the full out-of-pocket costs, and that public servants in every state will have access to an insurance plan that meets the needs of individuals on the spectrum.”

“We know that early diagnosis and intervention services are critical to the long term development of a child with autism,” he said. “In addition to universal and early detection screening, interventions such as ABA therapy are important tools that helps provide children with ASD an opportunity to live to their full potential.”

This is a godsend and I can only hope that it becomes mandatory for EVERY insurance plan. The epidemic of autism is not going away and the longer we wait to help these children, the harder it becomes to help them effectively.

Featured image via Getty