Insurance Coverage for Autism Passes Montana Senate Panel

February 18, 2009

A bill requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatments has been approved by a Montana Senate committee and sent to the Senate floor for debate.

Senate Bill 234 passed out of the Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee Monday on a 6-5 vote. Sponsored by Sen. Kim Gillan, D-Billings, SB234 requires insurance companies to provide up to $50,000 a year for costs related to treatment of autism for children up to age eight; and up to $20,000 a year for children nine years of age through age 18.

While the current statute requires coverage of mental illnesses, insurance companies have been able to turn down treatments for autism on the basis that they are considered educational.

Proponents of the bill argued that ABA and other therapies are in fact medically based treatments and that there is significant evidence backing up that claim.

Insurance companies testified against the bill, claiming that it would cause rates to go up for all customers. Proponents cited studies indicating any increased costs related to covering autism treatments are marginal.

SB 234 is expected on the floor for second reading this week.

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