Autism group supports proposed legislation

November 14, 2012

Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

If House Bill 598 or Senate Bill 381 are signed into law, it would ensure that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) would be covered under Ohio’s Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 and include it as a basic health-care service in Ohio.

According to Mike Bell, President of the Autism Project of Southern Ohio, the group has been working to get similar legislation to the Ohio legislature for consideration.

“I run into so many people who work and have health insurance through their employer that may not accept autism, because its a preexisting illness or injury,” Bell said. “Or some insurance companies might limit the amount of speech or occupational therapy covered. There is a lot of employers in the area who hire part-time without health benefits but, they make to much money to get a medical card.”

He said in those cases the necessary hospital visits and bills are payed for by the parents.

“This will also ease some of the financial burdens on families. It’s one thing having to worry about to child all of the time and put how your going to pay for your child’s needs. Often times they (parents or caregivers) are doing without somewhere else to provide for their child’s needs,” Bell said.

According to the Ohio News Connection, 32 other states have enacted similar legislation including Kentucky and West Virginia.

Bell said if signed into law the bills would allow for better access to health care for people with autism. He said the efforts of the Autism Project of Southern Ohio’s efforts will now be focused on advocating for passage of this bill.

The National Autism Speaks group has endorsed the legislation.

“Autism Speaks looks forward to working with the Ohio Legislature and advocates across the state in bringing relief to families forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket every year to care for their children,” Lorri Unumb, an attorney and state-government-affairs advocate for Autism Speaks said in a released statement. “When presented with the facts, the Ohio legislature will make the same choice as every other legislature in the Midwest.”

“It is unacceptable that Ohio stands alone in the Midwest and behind 32 other states in the nation in not guaranteeing its citizens this coverage,” said state Rep. Lou Terhar and Cheryl Grossman in a released statement. “…the State Department of Education reports state spending of over $250 million annually in special education costs for children with autistic disorders. Much of this spending would be avoidable if applied behavioral analysis treatment were made available to children before they reached school age, when it has the greatest chance of success.”

H.B. 598 was introduced to the Ohio House of Representatives on Oct. 16 and has yet to be assigned to a committee. S.B. 381 was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Oct. 15 and has yet to be assigned to a committee.

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or