Peter Cownie Kills Autism Insurance Bill

Claire Celsi is the Democratic challenger to Peter Cownie in Iowa House district 42. -promoted by desmoinesdem

April is Autism month. I wish I had better news for all the parents out there who are trying to provide the best care for their children.

State Representative Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines), Chair of the Iowa House Commerce Committee, single-handedly killed the bill that autism advocates in Iowa had worked all year to bring to a vote in the House Commerce Committee. Cownie had challenged the bill's advocates to "find him seven Republican votes" so he could bring the bill up and pass it out of his committee for consideration by the entire House. The autism advocates (mostly parents of children who have autism) found the committee votes - both Democrat and Republican. On March 8, the Commerce Committee met, but the bill was never brought up for a vote. Cownie apparently decided that insurance companies were more important than kids. I have heard stories from some of the parents who worked very hard to convince legislators to vote for the bill and they are adamant that the bill would have passed if Cownie would have allowed it to come up for a vote in his committee.

The so-called "Autism Insurance Bill" (Senate File 2254) - would require Iowa insurers to cover autism in people 21 and younger. Autism providers are making great strides in early intervention for autistic children with a therapy called ABA - Applied Behavioral Analysis. ABA has been widely implemented and documented in the autism medical community as an effective intervention for kids with autism. It can literally make a huge difference in a child's life.

Here is the portion of SF2254 that describes what the bill would do:

"Notwithstanding the uniformity of treatment requirements of section 514C.6, a group policy, contract, or plan providing for third-party payment or prepayment of health, medical, and surgical coverage benefits shall provide coverage benefits to covered individuals under twenty-two years of age for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders if the policy, contract, or plan is either of the following: A policy, contract, or plan issued by a carrier, as defined in section 513B.2,or an organized delivery system authorized under 1993 Iowa Acts, chapter 158,to an employer who on at least fifty percent of the employer’s working days during the preceding calendar year employed more than fifty full-time equivalent employees."

There is an autism "emergency fund" that low-income Iowans can apply for, but most Iowans do not qualify. The fund was mentioned as a replacement for the bill under consideration - but clearly the fund does not solve the problem for most families. To add insult to injury, several years ago, legislators made sure that their own cost-free government insurance policies covered ABA therapy.

The Iowa Senate passed its version of the bill earlier this session by a vote of 41-7. As you can see by the vote total, it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. There were seven GOP Senators who voted against the bill: Behn, Chapman, Chelgren, Costello, Garrett, Rosenboom and Schultz. Two other GOP Senators were absent during the vote: Sinclair and Dix. All Democratic Senators were present and voted for the bill.

ABA therapy is only offered in a few locations in Iowa and there are approximately 11,000 kids with autism in Iowa. You do the math. Parents of children with autism already struggle to find their children the care they need to succeed. Private insurance coverage is essential and makes more sense that forcing kids onto Medicaid where taxpayers pick up the bill.

According to new research, Autism is more prevalent in the United States in recent years - One out of 68 children in the U.S. are on the autism spectrum. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health contributed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that finds the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) largely unchanged from two years ago, at one in 68 children (or 1.46 percent). Boys were 4.5 times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls, an established trend. The rate is one in 42 among boys and one in 189 among girls.

Proper treatment can alter the trajectory of a child's well-being. In some cases, the child can get excellent early intervention and lead a normal, productive life. Kids who do not have access to the proper treatment are at higher risk of a poor outcome. Kids that get proper treatment have much brighter futures.

It's a shame that this bipartisan bill was killed in committee and that advocates have to start at square one again with a new crop of legislators next year.

  • Correction needed

    "there are 11,000 kids with approximately autism in Iowa."
    This needs to be corrected to read, "there are approximately 11,000 kids with autism in Iowa."

    John Olsen

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