New Ohio bill mandates insurance coverage for autism therapy

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Treatments for autism spectrum disorders can be expensive. Too often, families pay out of pocket for treatments that weren’t covered by insurance in Ohio. Now, that is all changing.

House Bill 463 requires Ohio health insurers to cover autism spectrum disorders. Governor John Kasich signed the bill in January, but it just took effect last week.

Tracy Mariciano said the new legislation will save her thousands of dollars. Her son needs frequent therapy and those bills add up quickly.

“Speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and it costs thousands and thousands of dollars a month,” Marciano said.

The Rich Center for Autism provides speech and occupational therapy for their students. Before this bill took effect last week, many families relied solely on The Rich Center for treatment.

“Many of our families are at or below the poverty line, so paying out of pocket wasn’t in the realm of possibilities,” said Melanie Carfolo, the Rich Center of Autism.

Ohio is the 45th state to pass autism insurance reform. For Tracy, it’s better late than never. She credits public awareness about autism and believes that people now have a basic understanding of what it is and what therapies are needed to treat it.

“If you start early intervention, they can succeed,” Mariciano said.

The new law will ensure that children have access to services early on, giving parents the opportunity to explore other treatments.

“They can think about therapeutic horseback riding, instead of just worrying about speech, or just OT (occupational therapy). Now we can explore other possibilities,” Carfolo said.

There are some minimum coverage standards with this bill such as at least 20 speech or occupational therapy sessions a year. It also covers the screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.

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