Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones this week announced that the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved the emergency regulations aimed at eliminating delays and denials of coverage for autism treatment. Commissioner Jones issued these emergency regulations to protect children diagnosed with autism and their families from the emotional, physical and financial harms caused by insurer denials or significant delays in autism treatment, which has reached crisis proportions in California.
“I am extremely pleased that the Office of Administrative Law has approved our emergency regulations,” said Commissioner Jones. “These emergency regulations will ensure that insurance companies cover medically necessary treatment required by the Mental Health Parity Act and Senator Darrell Steinberg’s autism treatment legislation. Autistic children and their families should now, without delay, receive the transformative treatment that will enable them to succeed in school, their families, and communities.”
The California Mental Health Parity Act was intended to provide adequate private health insurance coverage and benefits for mental illnesses. The legislature found that autism is one of several severe mental conditions that are seriously disabling. Failure to provide adequate coverage in private health insurance policies significantly increases expenditures by state and local government for medical treatment, special education and other services.
Later laws, such as SB 946 (Steinberg), signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October, 2011, reconfirmed the mandate for health insurers and HMOs to provide behavioral health treatment for autism. This emergency regulation is expected to benefit thousands of California’s children and families and save California taxpayers approximately $138.8 million to $197.8 million over the next year in costs that should properly be borne by insurers. These emergency regulations are the latest in a series of actions taken by Commissioner Jones to make sure autistic children can receive behavioral therapy treatment.