Gov. John Kasich signed a letter on Wednesday, mandating private health insurance to cover autism-related expenses.
Reggie Fields, the co-founder of the Living Beyond Autism Foundation, said that the signing on Wednesday was a huge step forward.
“It is going to give an opportunity for families to get access to certain types of care that will be covered by their insurance now,” Fields said.
Fields’ son Grant was diagnosed with autism when he was 3.
He said that several years ago, information about autism was not widely available, and medical services were not covered by insurance. Autism diagnoses have risen nearly 80 percent in the past decade.
“You know a lot of things we wanted to do for our child just wasn’t financially feasible for us,” Fields said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that one out of 88 children have symptoms of autism.
The new law will provide access to early childhood therapy for thousands in Ohio beginning next year.
It will mandate that private health insurance cover Applied Behavior Analysis for autism.. Benefits also now are available to state employees.
Business groups, like the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, remain opposed to the new law.
A spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business Ohio said that the law affects small businesses.
“There is no such thing as a free mandate,” said executive director of the NFIB Ohio, Roger Geiger. “Each time we put another mandate on, it drives small-business owners away from the insurance market.”
Gov. Kasich dismissed that idea.
“I believe we put it together in such a way that the impact on businesses will be minimal,” Kasich said on Wednesday.
Kasich said that autism often has devastating effects on families.
“Something like this is going to give families an opportunity to get access to that unattainable care that their child needs,” Fields said.
The state spends more than $250 million dollars annually in special education costs for children with autism.
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