One of the squabbles now going on at the legislature concerns HB 284 by Rep. Jim Patterson. The bill mandates insurance coverage for certain therapies for children with autism.
On one side are parents with autistic children while on the other is the Business Council of Alabama. Billy Canary, head of BCA, took pen in hand and came up with this article defending his group’s position.
Ashlie Walker, a board certified behavior analyst and owner of Milestones Behavior Group, Inc. in Birmingham called Canary’s hand with this article on AL.com.
Of course, Canary starts his argument by calling forth the spectre of Obamacare and likening Patterson’s bill to it. Which seems a bit of a stretch considering that Patterson is a staunch Republican who BCA supported with $15,000 in campaign contributions in 2014.
And Waker does a good job of debunking most of Canary’s claims by pointing out:
“Alabama is one of only five states left in the country without insurance reform to mandate the coverage of evidence-based Autism therapies. HB284 is the best shot at meaningful Autism insurance reform this state has ever seen.
Fiscal data across 45 other states have shown the cost of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) coverage does not exceed 50 cents per member per month and these numbers were provided by Autism Speaks at the HB284 hearing. The Business Council is refusing to acknowledge verified data on the costs in other states.
Canary claims that The “Riley Ward Act” passed in 2012 requires insurers to offer Autism treatment, not mandate coverage, to large group customers. Based on a survey conducted by the Alabama Autism Society, NOT ONE child in Alabama has benefitted from this law to date.
Canary claims that ABA costs approximately $100 per hour and that children with Autism require 40 hours of treatment each week to produce desired results. That equates to more than $200,000 a year. However, not all children with Autism require 40 hours per week of ABA. it is standard practice in ABA to use a tier delivery model that utilizes the services of Registered Behavior Technicians whose hourly is around $30 per hour.
Canary pokes fun at ABA calling it the “Cadillac of Autism Treatment.” ABA is the only scientifically validated treatment for Autism. Half a century of empirical studies demonstrates the effectiveness of ABA for Autism across the lifespan and is endorsed by the US Surgeon General, American Academy of Pediatrics and The CDC.
Canary says that there are no state-licensed or regulated ABA therapists operating in Alabama and this “health tax” would be imposed for a service that cannot be provided. The Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board became law in 2014 and will begin issuing licenses in May, 2017. There are 181 Board Certified Behavior Analysts in Alabama.
Canary claims that no hard numbers or rough estimates have been provided on how many individuals in Alabama would qualify for these therapies. BCBS-AL has the most useful and accurate data on file to determine this number. A simple search of claims with the “299.0” diagnosis code would yield these data.”
One has to find it interesting that while BCA is a wholehearted supporter of the Alabama Accountability Act that has diverted $86 million from public schools to give tax breaks to large companies, all under the guise of being supportive of helping children get out of “failing schools,” they want to balk on helping children in this case.