Monday, April 28, 2008

Florida House considers bill that would increase insurance availability to children with autism

A new program to give more insurance availability and other services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities made it through its first Florida House committee April 22, according to Florida Today.

"The bill proposes removing caps on income-based Florida's Healthy Kids insurance program so all families can buy insurance with coverage for children with disabilities, currently often not available at any price," Florida Today reports. "It also expands benefits to include speech, occupational and other therapies, and changes age limits so younger children can take advantage of such therapy. Private companies are being asked to negotiate coverage packages by 2011-12. They would be required to provide coverage if the negotiations don't work."

The bill's passage also would mean the development of voluntary pre-kindergarten programs for children with developmental disabilities starting in the 2011-12 school year.

The Palm Beach Post reported that the bill could lead to higher costs and possible exclusion of children without autism from the Healthy Kids program.

"Allowing all kids with autism to enroll in Healthy Kids also would force higher premiums for everyone in the program," officials said in the Post. "For every autistic child added to the program, 25 slots would be used up because the average health costs for autistic youngsters are 25 times higher than for other children."

"There's a possibility that if there's a requirement to cover autistic kids, then at the end of the day ... we'll have to reduce the number of children in the program," said state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who chairs Healthy Kids, said in the Post.