The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that Autism Spectrum Disorder affects one out of every 68 births in the U.S.  In the past two decades alone, the incidence of autism has increased by 600 percent. So how do we cope with the growing challenge? And how will we pay for it?

The national debate around insurance coverage [] for autism spectrum disorders has heated up over the last few years and resulted in states taking different approaches to meet the needs of individuals who cope with the condition. Although some states require insurers to provide coverage for treatment, opponents argue that such treatment is the responsibility of parents and/or school systems.

Here in Virginia, Grafton would like to see the laws covering the treatment of children with autism extend through all their educational years.

Where We Are Currently

To date, 37 states and the District of Columbia have laws related to autism and insurance coverage.

Locally, Virginia became the 26th state to enact autism insurance reform on May 6, 2011. Virginia’s autism insurance law requires state-regulated large group health plans and the state employee health plan to provide coverage of the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for individuals between the ages of two and six. The bill does not preclude the extension of coverage for individuals age seven and up (, but no legally mandated extension currently exists.

The Affordable Care Act requires all insurance plans to pay for preventive health services for children. Included in that benefit are two autism screenings: one at 18 months and another at 24 months

Join the Discussion

April is Autism Awareness Month, and in 2007, the United Nations General Assembly underscored the point by declaring April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. What better time, then, to educate people about this complex neurological disorder, which is more prevalent among children than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined?

In observance of Autism Awareness Month, I urge you to seek out information on the disorder as well as resources that are readily available.

And I further urge you to add your voice to the debate around basic insurance coverage for the condition in Virginia. By requiring coverage, the state could save $167,000 in educational costs per student with an autism spectrum disorder over their educational tenure. That equates to $2.3 billion dollars in savings (Daily Press, 2010).

While there has been significant progress to pave the way for children and families to access services, there is still work to be done. Education is the key to strengthening our community and will help to advance the lives of those living with autism.