Senate approves coverage of behavioral therapy for military dependents with developmental disabilities

On November 29, the Senate approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that requires TRICARE, the military’s health care system, to cover certain treatments for autism and other developmental disabilities. The measure, introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and championed by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), passed by a vote of 66 to 29. Many children with autism only receive this diagnosis after several years, during which time they are often diagnosed with conditions such as Pervasive Developmental Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). The new amendment language will help ensure that children with a range of developmental disabilities begin to receive critical behavioral health treatments, including applied behavioral analysis (ABA), at the earliest age possible. The Senate must next vote on the entire defense budget bill. A conference committee between the Senate and House will reconcile the two versions before a final bill is voted on by both chambers and sent to President Obama for signature. In May, the House passed a narrowed TRICARE measure that only covered those with autism in its defense budget bill.