Some State Lawmakers Seek To Require Insurance Coverage For Autism

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Ohio lawmakers are again trying to require insurance coverage for autism.

Dozens of bipartisan legislators are sponsoring bills in both chambers meant to ease the financial burden on parents who have children with autism.

Ohio would be the 33rd state to require insurance coverage for the disorders in the autism spectrum.

“There are a lot of families who are tremendously impacted, children and families, who by virtue of an inability to have an insurance company pay for this service, they go through their life savings, they go through and mortgage their homes. They are in dire straits, and this will make a dramatic difference,” said State Rep. Ted Celeste (D-Grandivew), a cosponsor of the bill in the House.

The mandate is expected to raise health insurance premiums by 31 cents per person.

Lawmakers say that's a small price to pay, but some say small businesses can't afford it.

“We've heard over the years every time that a new mandate is proposed, that this one will only cost a little bit. Well, the reality is that since 2002, the average employer health care premium has gone up 97 percent," said Keith Lake, managing director of government affairs at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. "That's certainly not all attributable to health care mandates, but we don't need anything right now that's going to add additional costs to employers who are trying to provide that coverage.”

The bills would incorporate coverage into the existing Mental Health Parity Act, which allows insurance companies to ask to be relieved from the mandate if premiums increase by more than one percent.

Treatment for autism would also be capped at $50,000 per year.

Lawmakers say they will try to pass the bills in the lame-duck session, but it may take them until next year.