KCAL TV-9 Los Angeles – CA Appeals Court Rules Public Insurance Must Cover Autism Treatment

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A therapy for children with autism must be covered by public insurance companies, a California appeals court has ruled.

Applied Behavior Analysis — or ABA — "is a system in which every moment and action by the child is monitored and rewarded by the therapist on a one-to-one relationship for periods of 35, 40 hours a week," plaintiffs' attorney Fred Woocher said.

The case, brought by Consumer Watchdog and Strumwasser & Woocher LLP, sought to extend insurance coverage for the treatment to families with public health insurance. Insurers often deny claims involving applied behavior analysis, according to the lawsuit.

Kate Movius's son Aidan is among the children said to have benefited from the treatment.

As a young child, her son "cried almost all the time, he couldn't be in most public settings," said Movius. "He wasn't a happy child."

"Now this is a kid who loves the supermarket, loves to go to concerts, loves crowds," she said.

Movius attributes the dramatic change in part to ABA, which she said helped Aidan follow directions, allowing him to safely explore the world.

"Life with ABA has really given Aidan his freedom," she said.

Movius said she spent years fighting with her health insurance companies to pay for the therapy. A state law passed in October 2011 required private insurers to include the therapy in their health coverage.

But until now, families with public health insurance — including police, firefighters and low-income families — have been denied coverage of the treatment because their insurance did not fall under the legislation.

The ruling by the California Court of Appeals changed that this week.

"The Court of Appeal said unequivocally that this treatment and the way it is delivered is what these kids, no matter who they are, need and should get," said Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog.

Kate Movius believes all families dealing with autism should have access to the therapy that changed her son's life.

"He's a very happy child, he's an unusual child, and he's a very very beautiful soul, thanks to autism I think, and thanks to him," Movius said. "But ABA has been, I think, the key to that."

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