IACC Recommends Public and Private Insurance Coverage of Early Behavioral Interventions for Children with Autism

8 Apr

The U.S. Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) sent a letter recently to Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services calling for public and private health insurance coverage for behavioral interventions for autistic children. The letter and the press release are below:

IACC Recommends Public and Private Insurance Coverage of Early Behavioral Interventions for Children with Autism (PDF – 79 KB)

Today the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) submitted a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, recommending public and private insurance coverage of early behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Committee developed the recommendations following discussions in early 2013 concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the IACC heard about the gains made toward meeting the needs of people with ASD through the first steps of the implementation of the Act, concerns were also voiced by the community about remaining gaps, including the lack of access to insurance coverage for early behavioral interventions.

As a part of the implementation of the ACA, States are in the process of defining “essential health benefits” (EHB) that will be covered by private insurers. The IACC was particularly concerned about the benefit for “mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.” Under this benefit, the Committee considered it to be critically important that the benchmark plans in all States provide the robust and consistent coverage for behavioral therapy that has been shown to be effective for children with ASD.

Currently, only approximately half of States have decided to offer private insurance plans that provide autism-specific behavioral interventions, while others are still in the process of making decisions. Even less is known about what type of coverage for early behavioral interventions may be available through Medicaid, a publicly-funded insurance program that is the single largest funder of medical care for children with ASD.

In light of increasing evidence for the effectiveness of early interventions, including a recent study funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)1 and a Cochrane analysis,2 the IACC drafted a letter to Secretary Sebelius recommending support for coverage of and broad access to early behavioral interventions for children diagnosed with ASD, including children covered under both private and publicly-funded (Medicaid) health plans. The IACC also recommended a Federal minimum standard of autism coverage through the essential health benefits for all health plans offered in the individual and small group markets and that minimum coverage include early intervention for children with ASD at a level of intensity indicated by the evidence.

The IACC considers access to early behavioral interventions for those with autism to be a critically important issue and hopes that this letter will provide helpful information to Secretary Sebelius as well as to the larger community as they consider the best ways to address the needs of all people with disabilities. The Committee believes that broadening access to evidence-based early behavioral interventions has the potential to improve outcomes and the quality of life for people with autism and their families.

1 Maglione MA, Gans D, Das L, Timbie J, Kasari C; Technical Expert Panel; HRSA Autism Intervention Research – Behavioral (AIR-B) Network. Nonmedical interventions for children with ASD: recommended guidelines and further research needs. Pediatrics. 2012 Nov;130 Suppl 2:S169-78. [PMID: 23118248]

2 Reichow B, Barton EE, Boyd BA, Hume K. Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) for young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17. [PMID: 23076956]


The IACC is a Federal advisory committee that was created by Congress in an effort to accelerate progress in ASD research and services. The IACC works to improve coordination and communication across the Federal government and work in partnership with the autism community. The Committee is composed of officials from many different Federal agencies involved in autism research and services, as well as people with ASD, parents, advocates, and other members of the autism community. The documents and recommendations produced by the IACC reflect the views of the Committee as an independent advisory body and the expertise of the members of the Committee, but do not represent the views, official statements, policies or positions of the Federal government. For more information on the IACC, please visit: www.iacc.hhs.gov.

By Matt Carey

note: I serve as a public representative to the IACC but all comments here and elsewhere are my own.

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