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Triangle Business Journal: Law Would Require Insurers to Cover Costly Autism Treatments

Triangle Business Journal: Law Would Require Insurers to Cover Costly Autism Treatments

Law Would Require Insurers to Cover Costly Autism Treatments
by Todd Cohen
Triangle Business Journal
January 11, 2013kristy and tracey

In the long session of the state legislature that convened Jan. 9, a bill is expected to be introduced that would require private health insurers to cover treatment related to autism.

That requirement would cover costs that
can exceed $50,000 a year for some families, and on average it would add 31 cents a month to costs for all members insured by companies that offer autism coverage in the 32 other states that have passed similar legislation, says Tracey Sheriff, CEO of the Autism Society of North Carolina.

The legislation, he says, is important in the face of continuing growth in the prevalence of autism, which affects one in 88 individuals in the U.S., including more than 60,000 North Carolinians, up from one in 150 in 2000.

Founded in 1970, the Autism Society provides advocacy, training and education, and direct services for individuals with autism and their families.

The Raleigh-based agency operates with an annual budget of $16 million and in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, served nearly 11,000 people with autism, a developmental disability characterized by difficulties in understanding social relationships and interactions.

The Autism Society, for example, employs 18 parent advocates who work with parents of children with autism in all 100 counties in the state, providing support for children throughout their lives, and operates 49 chapters, all led by volunteers, that serve families and provide peer support in 66 counties.

And it serves as an advocate on publicpolicy issues, including the shift to managed care and the impact that will have on families living with autism.

The agency also provides workshops, conferences and consulting for individuals and families, as well as training for organizations ranging from schools, libraries and churches to medical practices, hospitals, child-care providers and employers.

It provides residential housing for 25 adults in seven communities, as well as job training, “day programming” for
people with autism not ready for competitive employment, and community-based services, mainly for children who live at home.

And its Camp Royall in Chatham County, the oldest and largest camp in the U.S. for people with autism, served 350 adults and children last summer, and serves another 650 people during the rest of the year.

The Autism Society, which generates $10.3 million in Medicaid reimbursements and $3.3 million through a state contract, raises another $1.4 million through fundraising.

It recently received a three-year, $100,000 gift from the Ireland Family Foundation in Chapel Hill to create the position of clinical director, which will be filled by Aleck Myers, former director of the state’s Murdoch Developmental Center in Butner.

And with founding support from Evernham Family Racing for a Reason, it is launching a program in Davidson to serve young adults.

While some autism organizations focus on medical research, the Autism Society focuses on supporting people living with the disorder, says Kristy White, the agency’s director of development.

“We are looking to improve the lives of individuals with autism, support families affected by autism, and educate our community,”
she says.