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Utah health insurance companies one step closer to having to pay for autism treatment

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Utah has the highest prevalence of autism in the United States, 1 in 47 children, and yet it remains one of just 18 states that doesn’t require health insurance companies to cover autism therapies. Senate bill 55 is hoping to change that.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Utah has the highest prevalence of autism in the United States, 1 in 47 children, and yet it remains one of just 18 states that doesn’t require health insurance companies to cover autism therapies. Senate bill 55 is hoping to change that.

More than 50 people, dressed in red, filled the State Committee room Thursday afternoon showing silent support for the bill. It was passed with a 5-2 vote and now moves on to the full Senate.

Wiley Hall, 10, was among those in attendance. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 8 years old. While he’s highly functioning he did need close to a year of therapy to help him learn how to deal with the disorder.

“When you get frustrated,” explained Hall, “you just need a little break.”

Wiley’s family had to go without health insurance so they could pay for his therapy out of pocket.

Melanie Hall said, “He was doing about five hours a week and that ran about $2,300 a month.”

For many children with autism much more therapy is needed.

President of Utah Autism Coalition, Mirella Petersen told ABC 4 News, “For most Utah families they’re looking at refinancing their homes if that’s an option. They go into bankruptcy. They’re working two to three jobs and their families are falling apart.”

There are more than 18,000 children with autism in Utah. Research shows more than half could lead normal lives if they get the help they need at an early age. Nationally the cost of treating autism through insurance is less than the cost of a can of coke – 31 cents per member, per month.

“But if we don’t treat these children when they’re young they grow up to be adults severely disabled and the cost of an untreated individual with autism is $3.2 million dollars across their life span.”
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