Larson Applauds OPM Decision to Allow Coverage of Vital Health Care Services For Families With Children With Autism

Press Release

By:  John Larson
Date: May 31, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) applauded a decision by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that will allow federal employee insurance plans to cover a behavioral health treatment for autism known as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) as a medical treatment. Until now, ABA, which is an evidenced based therapy, was considered an educational service and coverage was limited.

In a letter sent to insurance carriers authorizing them to include ABA services in their coverage, OPM noted that, after evaluating the status of ABA for children with autism, the OPM Benefit Review Panel "concluded that there is now sufficient evidence to categorize ABA as medical therapy."

"With the number of kids with autism in this country estimated at 1 in every 88, it's imperative that we ensure that families have access to the care they need. The decision by OPM that ABA should be covered as a medical therapy is a big step in the right direction," Congressman Larson said. "My hope is that their determination will compel the United States Senate to follow the House's lead in passing the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act as a part of their Defense Authorization bill, to ensure that ABA is covered as a medical service for military dependents with autism in TRICARE too."

The Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act (H.R. 2288), which has 70 bipartisan co-sponsors, would require TRICARE - the military healthcare system - to provide active duty military families, and military retirees, with children with Autism full access to ABA therapy as a medical treatment. The bill was drafted in response to the appeal of a constituent -- Rachel Kenyon of Manchester, the wife of Sergeant Major William Kenyon of the Connecticut National Guard and mother of two. Kenyon brought the issue to Larson's attention at an event highlighting the struggles that military families with children with autism face with their TRICARE coverage.

Last week the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act , which included the measure, by a bipartisan vote of 299 members in favor.

The bill is now awaiting action in the Senate.