EDITORIAL: Victory marked for children with autism, families
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - 1/18/2018
Jan. 18--Parents and family members of kids with autism received some welcomed news this week as three major insurance companies in Mississippi agreed to provide more significant coverage to those with autism and other developmental disorders.
During a press conference in Jackson on Tuesday, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney announced that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, United Healthcare of Mississippi and Magnolia Health were voluntarily removing the age cap in order to provide autism therapy services for those above the age of 8.
The decision was seen as a noteworthy milestone by advocates across the state and in Northeast Mississippi who have been pushing for similar measures for some time to help those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, which impacts how a person processes sensory information and their ability to interact with and relate to others.
Applied behavioral analysis is a process involving the systematic application of interventions, such as positive reinforcement, to improve socially significant behaviors among individuals diagnosed with autism or other developmental disorders. Studies have demonstrated many children with autism experience significant improvements in learning, reasoning, communication and adaptability when they participate in high-quality applied behavior analysis programs. State law requires coverage of applied behavior analysis therapy for children through age 8, although autism advocates are seeking state legislation to lift the cap for all insurers.
The expansion of coverage is significant for the Tupelo-based Autism Center of North Mississippi and the families they serve, said Brittany Cuevas, director of business development and administration for the center.
Because insurance reimbursements have been limited, the center has relied on grants and fundraising to provide services on a sliding scale for many clients, as reported by the Daily Journal'sMichaela Morris.
Low reimbursement rates have made it difficult to recruit and retain board certified behavior analysts. The center is hoping to launch a new program this summer for older kids with autism.
The Insurance Department also unveiled two new resources for individuals diagnosed with autism. An Autism Hotline, (833) 488-6472, and Autism Insurance Resources website -- www.mid.ms.gov/autism -- are now live, and are designed to help consumers with any issues related to claiming health insurance benefits for screening, diagnosis and treatment.
These initiatives are significant for Mississippi and our region, and we thank the many stakeholders, advocates and leaders who worked behind the scenes to make these a reality.
The reality is that the intricate systems of health care and insurance are complicated enough without taking into account the additional services that might be needed for those with autism and other developmental disorders.
Perhaps Dr. Jim Moore, who is director of autism solutions at Canopy Children's Solutions in Jackson and chairman of the Mississippi Autism Board, said it best: "Today is a victory for the children of Mississippi with autism and their families."
(c)2018 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.)
Visit the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.) at www.djournal.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.