Sen. Liane Sorenson, R-Hockessin, introduced legislation March 18 that would require Delaware health insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism related conditions for children up to age 21.
Senate Bill 204 would cap benefits at $50,000 for applied behavior analysis services, considered to be the most effective method for identifying and treating Asperger’s disorder and other conditions on the autism spectrum.
Most insurance companies do not cover “applied behavioral analysis,” the most common treatment for the disorder. Families are forced to pay for the expensive treatment themselves, or rely on the public education system to provide their children with limited assistance.
Denise Bradley of Middletown said the treatment can help autistic children gain motor and speech skills, putting them on the road to a more productive life.
Her autistic son died three years ago, but she said it’s her duty to keep up the fight for more benefits.
“This is the only therapy that’s considered approved,” she said. “To not give that to families through insurance is unconscionable.”
Theda Ellis, executive director of Autism Delaware, said the bill will give families access to better treatment earlier.
“Early intervention and behavioral therapies are the key,” she said. “This is an opportunity to invest in our children.”
Sorenson said autism affects one in every 110 children and approximately 900 students in Delaware schools.
“This is an issue where I’ve really heard a lot from parents,” she said. “Door knocking, I’ve talked to more parents of children with autism than any other group.”
According to the Insurance Commissioner’s office, 15 states already require insurance companies to cover autism and another 11 states are considering similar legislation.