Lawmakers, parents and advocates called for health insurers to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism Thursday at a rally and hearing in the House Health and Government Operations Committee.
A bill in the General Assembly would force insurance companies to include up to $50,000 per year for autism treatment in Marylanders' health insurance plans. Many parents now pay out of pocket for their autistic child's treatment.
Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interactions and communication. Its cause and cure are unknown, but families have found that treatment -- called applied behavioral analysis, or ABA -- is an effective tool to improve behavior and communication.
Delegate Kirill Reznik, who introduced the bill, said he felt Maryland needed to enact these requirements because it is thought of as a progressive and innovative state, particularly in regards to medicine. Eight other states have already required autism coverage by insurance companies.
But the Maryland Chamber of Commerce opposed the legislation because of the potential cost to employers. And health insurance lobbyists argued that this treatment is primarily educational instead of medical, and that the effect on the insured would be uneven in terms of both cost and coverage.
Debbie Rivkin, a lobbyist representing the League of Life and Health Insurers, said the bill would only affect 15 percent of Marylanders with health coverage, because the bill only targets the large group insurance market, which includes people insured through larger businesses
Miami Gardens Health Insurance
Higher medical costs await state workers -- Consultant's study says rates must rise 29.4 percent unless actions are taken
Health insurance premiums for 225,000 local government workers, retirees and their dependents would skyrocket under estimates presented by a consulting firm.
The study warns that rates could jump by nearly 30 percent for health plans handled by the Hawaii Employer-Union Employees Health Benefits Trust Fund.
Marie Laderta, trustee chairwoman and state human resources director, says that if agreement is not reached at a March 18 meeting, the state will be forced to try to negotiate extensions for the insurance programs handled by HMSA, HMA and Kaiser.
Said union leader John Radcliffe, "If we cannot agree on what to do, all public employee health insurance in Hawaii ceases to be as of July 1."