Local mother weighs in on the defeat of Autism insurance bill

Published: Feb. 22, 2019 at 4:31 PM MST
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Right now South Dakota law allows most insurance plans to avoid paying for autism treatment.

A bill to close an insurance loophole gave new hope to families across the state, but earlier this week lawmakers killed it.

Reporter Jeff Voss has more on a local mother whose autistic daughter must now go without that treatment.

For families with an autistic child, it's very simple.

If treatment is covered by insurance, the child's future is bright.

If not, the child's future is up in the air.

A bill forcing insurance companies to cover autism was voted down.

Beth Zimmerman, ' And I was devastated, and to watch the other moms who have been able to have ABA coverage for their children, to watch their reaction and know there is no way they can get this coverage on their insurance, they needed this bill to essentially make their child functioning members of society.'

ABA or Applied Behavioral Analysis works on attention level and social skills. Without insurance, an hour-long ABA class can cost up to 250 dollars out of pocket, and some children require 40 hours of therapy per week. Testimony in Pierre from an autistic 10-year-old made a large impact.

Zimmerman says, ' There was a little girl there and she was 10 years old and she testified in front of this committee. I was severely autistic when I was 2 years old, I could not speak and now I'm a 10-year-old, I have friends, I can speak in full sentences. I'm not on an IEP anymore. It was so gutwrenching to listen to that, not a single dry eye in the house except for those on the legislature and those on the committee.'

While Zimmerman understands the cost concerns from insurance providers and why they opposed the bill, she encourages them to look at a broader scope.

Zimmerman, 'Think about our children. these are supposed to be our future. And we are sitting here arguing over cents. It's going to cost, what they came up with was 35 cents per person insured per month.'