Autism – Federal Health Program to Require Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Coverage

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that all health plans within the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program – which covers federal employees, retirees and their dependents – must include ABA therapy starting next year. “OPM has now determined that appropriate coverage of ABA treatment by all plans/options is necessary,” according to a letter sent to insurance carriers. “Therefore, for the 2017 plan year, carriers may no longer exclude ABA for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We expect all carriers to offer clinically appropriate and medically necessary treatment for children diagnosed with ASD,” the letter states. This directive is a victory for advocates who have fought for years for ABA to be recognized as an evidence-based treatment by insurers. To date, legislation has been passed in 43 states requiring at least some insurance plans to cover ABA

Autism – Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Address Wandering By Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Other Developmental Disabilities

Kevin and Avonte’s Law (S. 2614) was introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) on March 1. This legislation reauthorizes an existing program designed to assist in locating persons with dementia who wander from safe environments and it adds new support for children with developmental disabilities, including ASD. It allows Justice Department grants to be used to develop training and emergency protocols, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make local tracking technology programs available for individuals who may wander because of their condition. The Arc supports this legislation as it seeks to prevent and reduce the harm from wandering (or “elopement”) by the 27% of children with developmental disabilities who are reported to wander from safe settings each year. Read Senator Grassley’s statement for the Congressional Record here.

Autism – Federal panel determines evidence is insufficient for universal ASD screening

Last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a final recommendation statement on “Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Young Children.”  The USPTF concluded that evidence is insufficient to recommend that all children be screened for autism, stating that “…the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in young children for whom no concerns of ASD have been raised by their parents or a clinician.”  The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine convened by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  The Arc and several other disability organizations submitted comments last year on the USPSTF’s draft recommendation.  We expressed support for guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics that call for continuous developmental surveillance and for specific autism screening at 18 months, 24 months, and whenever a parent or provider expresses concern.  The Arc is concerned that the USPSTF final recommendation statement could be used by insurance companies to discontinue reimbursement to physicians for screening work, despite the availability of free brief evidence-based screening tools.  Visit the USPSTF web site to view its final recommendation.

Autism CARES Signed by President Obama

The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2014 was signed into law on August 8, 2014 by President Obama. This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2011 for an additional five years and makes a number of improvements to it. Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has significantly advanced the science and practice in the disability field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts. This has resulted in an increase in the proportion of infants screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an increase in the proportion of children diagnosed by the age of three, and continuing improvements to decrease the time between diagnosis and intervention. The new law continues these efforts and makes the following improvements – a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self-advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth.For more information on the accomplishments of the prior legislation see, “Report to Congress on Activities Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities Under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (FY 2010-FY 2012)”.

Autism CARES Is Law

The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2014 was signed into law on August 8, 2014 by President Obama. This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2011 for an additional five years and makes a number of improvements to it. Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has significantly advanced the science and practice in the disability field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts. This has resulted in an increase in the proportion of infants screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an increase in the proportion of children diagnosed by the age of three, and continuing improvements to decrease the time between diagnosis and intervention. The new law includes continues these efforts and make the following improvements – a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth.For more information on the accomplishments of the prior legislation see, “Report to Congress on Activities Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities Under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (FY 2010-FY 2012)”.

Senate Passes Autism CARES Act

Late on July 31, the Senate unanimously passed “Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014” or the “Autism CARES Act” (S. 2449), sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) . The bill reauthorizes the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 for an additional five years. Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has advanced the science and practice in the autism field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts.   The new measure will continue these efforts and includes a number of welcome changes: a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self-advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth. For more information on the accomplishments of the Combating Autism Act, visit the HHS website.

Autism CARES Act Passed by House of Representatives, Action Pending in Senate

On June 24, the House passed a bill to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act – now renamed the Autism CARES Act (H.R.4631) – by voice vote. The bill was brought up on the suspension calendar, meaning no floor debates or amendments. The Senate bill (S.2449), was passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee the next day. It is expected to be considered by the full Senate in early July. This legislation extends research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training activities for an additional five years. The Arc strongly supports the CARES Act. Learn more about these efforts at http://iacc.hhs.gov.

Senate Introduces Bill to Reauthorize Combating Autism Act; Committee Advances House Bill

On June 9, a bipartisan reauthorization bill (S. 2449) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Enzi (R-WI). The Senate bill is identical to the House bill, except that it includes a name change – the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act. The Arc, along with our coalition partners, advocated for replacing the title with one that uses respectful language. On the same day, the Energy and Commerce Committee quickly approved the House bill. See our coalition statement on the CCD website.

House Committee to Take Up the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act Today

The Energy and Commerce Committee will begin consideration of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act Today. The Committee will consider an amendment in the nature of a substitute to HR 4631 introduced by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Michael Doyle (D-PA).   This latest version included a few changes, including a new autism position at the Department of Health and Human Services, increasing the number of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and studying the needs of children with autism as they transition to adulthood, as well as the services available to them. See our support letter signed by 33 national disability organizations. The House reauthorization bill extends the research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training activities under the Combating Autism Act for an additional five years. Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Enzi (R-WY) are expected to introduce a Senate bill to reauthorize the law as soon as this week.

House Subcommittee Advances Combating Autism Reauthorization Act

On May 28, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved an amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 4631 that had been introduced by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Michael Doyle (D-PA).   Changes in this latest version include adding a new autism position at the Department of Health and Human Services, increasing the number of non-federal members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and studying the needs of children with autism as they transition to adulthood, as well as the services available to them. During the markup, Representative Pallone (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, noted that two issues were outstanding for the full committee to address – determining which agency was responsible for conducting the transition study and renaming the law, which The Arc supports.   H.R. 4631 largely extends the research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training activities under the Combating Autism Act for an additional 5 years. Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Enzi (R-WY) are expected to introduce a Senate bill to reauthorize the law in the next couple of weeks.