The federal government just approved Minnesota’s request for more medical assistance, which is aimed at giving autistic children more one-on-one therapy. The new medical assistance benefits will help children with this medical condition by giving them all more access to much-needed programs. The program will also help young adults who suffer with autism as well, so more affected residents can get the treatment they so desperately need. Minnesota now becomes one of the first states within the country to help subsidize the early-intervention therapies specifically for children with autism.
The assistance that the federal government granted will help the autistic children learn language and social skills, which is one of the more expensive and intense types of therapies that autistic children require. This means that the people on Medical Assistance, which is the healthcare program for poor and low-income families, will get the same type of treatment that used to only be for families with money and better healthcare. The one-on-one therapies are the most effective at helping children with autism learn skills needed to have a more improved quality of life, but because it is one-on-one, it’s also not something the more low-income people can afford to do. These types of one-on-one therapies also have to start early after a diagnosis of autism, and then continue for many years to come, with multiple sessions per month needed to improve skills. Now, no matter what the income of the family, these children will be able to get the attention and therapy they need to help improve their skills, and this will help improve the quality of day to day life for the children.
There are a lot of different therapies now going to be available for more residents, including even some more controversial therapy techniques. Applied Behavior Analysis is one of the more controversial therapies for children with autism, and it focuses on repetition to help control the various impulsive behaviors that autistic children have. The Applied Behavior Analysis therapy runs a family about $100,000 a year, but before only the middle class and wealthy families could afford to use this therapy. Families who are now on Medical Assistance that are lower-income will be able to get the ABA therapy, although Minnesota is only the third state to use the public insurance program to cover it.
There will be some requirements for the children to qualify for the various therapy options if on the public health insurance plans, especially when it comes to the one-on-one therapy. All children will get evaluations of their specific health and developmental needs, and those evaluations determine the types of treatments available to that child. There will also be special training available for the caregivers of the autistic child, which is also covered by the Medical Assistance program. The Minnesota Department of Human Services believes that over 325 of the children on Medical Assistance can benefit from the various therapies that will become available. The program goes into effect on July 1, 2015, and the Department of Human Services believes that over 1,000 children per year will benefit from the new medical benefits available. The Medical Assistance Program will be spending about $15 million each year on the early-intervention treatments, which is partially funded by federal money.
Doctors and supporters of early-intervention treatments for autistic children believe that the expanded access to the one-on-one therapies will help parents achieve a diagnoses much sooner. The quicker a diagnosis is made, the quicker therapy and other treatment can begin, and this means that the different therapies are more likely to work. The younger the child is when they begin therapy, the easier it will be to help the child with social skills and learning development, and it might help them stay closer to their peers when it comes to development. Everyone is excited about Minnesota being approved for this program, because as the autism rates continue to rise, the need for expanded coverage for poor families continues to grow.