The House gave initial approval to a bill that would require insurance providers to cover autism treatments for children under the age of 12 on Thursday.
House Bill 2744, which passed easily by voice vote, is less than autism advocates wanted, but according to its sponsor, Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, the bill is a major step in the right direction and one that even insurance companies can accept as a compromise.
The bill would mandate that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder receive 1,300 treatment hours covered during the first four years from their diagnosis and 520 hours after that until the age of 12. Autism advocates had hoped to see more treatment hours and coverage until the age of 18.
Kansas is currently one of 17 states that does not have a mandate for autism coverage. Treatments can cost families thousands of dollars each year.
The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate before it becomes law.
Rubin said covering treatment to children with autism would actually help save public schools money by enabling kids to be mainstreamed from special education, and he appealed to fiscal conservatives to support the bill on those grounds at the very least. He also told them it was the right thing to do.
But Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, opposed the bill on the grounds that he opposes all insurance mandates. “When you’re dealing with other people’s health insurance, be prepared,” Schwab said, referring to problems with the Affordable Care Act.
Scwhab still praised Rubin for working to make the bill one that could be palatable to all sides on the issue.
Rubin told House members that if they oppose mandates, they chose the wrong line of work.
“In case you haven’t noticed, virtually everything we do up here is a mandate. ... We’re in the mandate business,” Rubin said.
“Hopefully, we can improve the lives of these kids,” he added.