Highlight on South Dakota: Autism Task Force Created Following Rejection of Insurance Coverage Bill

A special committee of South Dakota legislators has agreed on a plan to undertake a study that would explore the treatment of autism, as well as the availability of services, according to The State. The committee’s autism task force would collaborate with South Dakota’s Department of Human Services to undertake the study and then make policy suggestions on the issue.

Autism Legislation

The creation of the autism task force was spurred by the failure of a South Dakota bill that would have set insurance standards for patients with autism. House Bill 1257 would have required insurance companies to “provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorder [to the extent that it is] not already covered by a health benefit plan.”

The bill would have required coverage for applied behavior analysis, psychiatric therapy, and psychological and pharmaceutical care. Speech, occupational, and physical therapy would also have been required coverage under the bill.

Had the bill been passed, South Dakota would have become the 37th state to require insurance companies to cover autism therapies, according to KDLT News.

Autism Daily Newscast reported that, because the government has postponed the implementation of a national standard for coverage of autism treatment, including the costly and time-consuming applied behavior analysis, “there is no guarantee that they will be covered under Obamacare.”

Caring for Patients with Autism

Autism spectrum disorder has been identified in approximately 1 in 88 children, according to the CDC, over all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. A study showed that, on average, the medical costs of an individual with autism is about $4,110 to $6,200 more per year than that of an individual without autism. According to the CDC, on top of medical costs, the cost of intensive behavioral interventions for children with autism comes to about $40,000 to $60,000 per child per year.