By Wendy Osher
A bill that would require coverage and benefits for patients with autism spectrum disorders passed committee approval in the state House today.
The House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce unanimously adopted HB721, which requires that state-regulated health plans cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism, including Applied Behavioral Analysis.
The bill was originally heard last week in a hearing that featured testimony from an 8-year-old boy named Luke, who was diagnosed with autism. During his testimony, Luke’s difficulties in communicating with others was observed firsthand by legislators as he asked for the help that he needs to better navigate the social world.
“The testimony of the brave young boy clearly illustrated the importance of early diagnosis and treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder,” said CPC Chair Angus McKelvey of Maui.
The bill, now being referred to as “Luke’s Law” is designed to equip children with the social skill set needed to better interact with others and enrich their lives.
Rep. McKelvey said the law, “will ensure that Applied Behavior Analysis and/or other treatments will be available to increase the opportunity for keiki and teens to develop the skills and functioning necessary to survive and thrive for adult life.”
A majority of states have enacted legislation similar to the Hawai’i measure being considered. House lawmakers that support the bill say actual claims data from states which were among the first to enact such legislation show the average cost of coverage is 31 cents per covered member per month. The cost of not providing appropriate treatment to individuals with autism, meantime, has been estimated to be $3.2 million per child over their lifespan.