Autism insurance bill encouraging, parent says

From Press & Staff Reports

Passage of a bill requiring autism insurance coverage for children is encouraging, according to Eupora native Quess Hood.

House Bill 885 requires health insurance policies to provide coverage for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder. The bill restricts coverage to children ages 2-8, but ongoing treatments can continue after that age cap if deemed medically necessary.

It extends health insurance coverage to autism services, such as Applied Behavior Analysis. The bill also regulates the practice of ABA therapy and requires providers obtain state licenses.

The Clarion-Ledger’s Emily Le Coz reported that state Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, said the average policy holder will see an estimated 32-cent increase as a result of the change. Chism brought up the measure March 17 on the House floor, where members unanimously voted to send it to the governor.

An estimated 10,000 children in Mississippi are living with autism, a disorder that causes mild-to-profound deficits in language and socialization.

One of them is Hood’s 7-year-old son, Jasper. Hood, a Eupora native who now lives in Ripley, had lobbied the Legislature last year for autism insurance coverage.

He told Le Coz, “When me and my wife started this fight, it was for our son. But, really, it’s about so many people in our state who have no hope. The worst thing in the world is having no hope. This is going to give people hope.”

The bill Hood had supported last year died, as have all previous attempts to pass autism insurance reform in Mississippi.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi is now covering ABA therapy on its own, according to the C-L. The health insurer implemented the change Jan. 1, also covering children up to age 8.

Research has shown that early and extended access to ABA therapy can lessen, and in some cases eliminate, the most debilitating effects of the disorder.

AUTISMSPEAKS.ORG Eupora native Quess Hood lobbied for autism insurance coverage.

Eupora native Quess Hood lobbied for autism insurance coverage.