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Kasich providing needed help to autistic kids

Published 12:14pm Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Children with autism can lead healthy and productive lives, with proper treatment and early intervention. But thousands of Ohio families can’t get either, because insurers don’t offer adequate coverage.

This month, Gov. John Kasich took a big step toward remedying the problem, when he announced that Ohio will require health-insurance plans to cover autism services for children by 2014.

The new policy directive will make such services available to state employees and their 40,000 covered children, after approval by five state employee unions.

Autism services also will be included in Ohio’s “essential health benefit” package, which federal law requires in every state starting in 2014. The package outlines minimum coverage that insurers must provide.

Ohio’s tax-funded Medicaid program for poor and disabled residents already covers autism services for roughly 40 percent of Ohio’s children. But most employer-sponsored health plans don’t include such coverage.

Mr. Kasich is, in effect, finishing the job the General Assembly undertook six years ago, when it passed mental health parity measures that generally require insurance companies to treat mental illness in the same way they treat other medical needs. The legislation, however, excluded autism spectrum disorder….

(I)n placing Ohio among 32 other states with similar mandates on autism, Mr. Kasich should be applauded for helping to close a troubling and risky gap in Ohio’s mental-health care and insurance coverage.

The (Toledo) Blade

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