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What’s in health reform (Affordable Care Act) for people on the autism spectrum?

Editor’s Note – Thanks to Jennifer Mahan, Autism Society of North Carolina Director of Government Relations for the following analysis of last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court of the United States recently upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which would expand health care coverage for many people in the United States. It’s a large and complicated law (click here for the Health Care Law website where you can read the complete text of ACA), and the regulations have yet to be written, but it contains a number of items that are of great benefit to people on the autism spectrum including:

  • Insurers must cover people regardless of pre-existing conditions, cannot put in place excessive waiting periods for coverage, and cannot selectively refuse to renew coverage.
  • Insurers cannot charge different premiums based on health status, gender or occupation.
  • Insurance companies have stricter limits on the use of lifetime or annual limits for covering certain health conditions.
  • Expands coverage for “behavioral health treatments” and habilitative services, which we believe will include autism therapies like applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and services that help improve and maintain social skills, communication skills, and reduce behavioral problems.
  • Allows parents to keep children on their health plans up to age 26.
  • Allows states the option to expand coverage of Medicaid to individuals with developmental disabilities (through a variety of home can community based options and flexible coverage options) as well as low-income people, including childless adults, who did not previously qualify for this coverage.
  • People who previously could not afford insurance qualify for subsidies to make health care insurance more affordable.
  • Small businesses get additional tax credits to offer health care coverage to employees.

For people who have co-existing mental health disorders:

  • Requires plans offered through state health exchanges and in the small group market to follow the mental health parity act of 2008, ensuring coverage of mental illnesses and emotional or behavioral disorders.
  • Encourages the use of medical homes and improves coordination of primary health care with other behavioral and mental health services.

While the ACA does not cover every person without health care and  does not apply to every kind of insurance, we believe there are many benefits to the law. Some provisions of the law have already gone into effect, and many more will go into effect in January of 2014.

The Autism Society of North Carolina will continue to provide updates about the ACA through this Blog, our monthly email newsletter and on our website.

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