House votes to expand treatment options for children with autism

DES MOINES — More insurance plans would be required to cover some of the specialized treatment available for children with autism if a bill that cleared the House Wednesday becomes law.

The coverage would be required in family insurance policies for all government workers in Iowa as well as for those who work in Iowa businesses with at least 50 employees.

Representative Andy McKean, a Republican from Anamosa, delivered an emotional thank you to those who worked on the legislation.

“Our oldest daughter is autistic…I can simply say that my wife and I would have very much wished this legislation was in effect back many years ago,” McKean said.

Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, pointed out state government employees have had this kind of coverage for their children for years.

“It has been the parents that have not been able to access that form of treatment that have really been left out,” Hall said.

Experts say “applied behavior analysis” can help youngsters who’ve been diagnosed with autism modify their behavior and improve their communication skills. Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said in a year of conflict, this bill is a bipartisan highlight.

“It is not perfect, but gives hope for middle class families who face autism and will now have an opportunity to have health care coverage for this critical treatment,” she said.

Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, has been trying for years to find consensus with the insurance industry on this bill.

“It’s been a long haul,” Heaton said moments before the House voted on the bill. “There’s been a tremendous amount of anxiety out there.”

The bill passed the House unanimously. It now goes to the Iowa Senate for consideration.

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