Therapy for All Disabilities
All 50 states have autism insurance mandates requiring insurance to cover therapies for individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Only three states have insurance mandates which are inclusive of all disabilities. When MO became the third state to expand their insurance mandate to cover all disabilities on July 11, 2019, parents and providers from all over the US were watching. They are now forming Disability Empowerment advocacy groups, a nationwide grassroots effort to advocate for a Therapy for All law in every state which would require insurance coverage to cover therapies for those with any disability.
Currently, many insurance plans do not adequately cover habilitative therapies for individuals with developmental disabilities. These therapies are very expensive, easily running over $100/session, with many individuals needing 3-4 sessions each week. Many individuals with disabilities are not getting the therapies they need to learn and improve basic activities, like walking, talking, and self-care tasks. While some insurances are starting to cover habilitative therapies because of the Affordable Care Act, most cover a limited number, often twenty visits per year. Twenty therapy sessions go fast when a child needs two to three sessions a week. Coverage for these therapies should not be based on having a certain disability; it should be based on need.
The greatest impact of a Therapy for All law is that thousands of individuals with disabilities would finally have access to the medically necessary therapies they need to develop skills they need for daily life. No one can argue this quality of life point. The cost savings impact of a Therapy for All Disabilities law would vary from state-to-state but there are some overall savings that every state would experience by passing an insurance mandate inclusive of all disabilities.
With young children getting the support they need, there would be less children entering into schools requiring special education services. Early intervention reduces the cost to our schools by minimizing the need for special education services.
Children with disabilities grow up to be adults with disabilities. These therapies give children and teens the skills they need to live independently, including the skills to find and hold a job, maintain a home, and move throughout the community. Many adults with disabilities can be contributing members of our society with the appropriate therapeutic support. Often states have to cover the cost of programs that help adults with disabilities. The more independent these adults are, the greater the savings to the state.
The Cost of Therapy for All
One of the biggest concerns of a Therapy for All law is the cost increase to insurance premiums. Each state will have to estimate this cost. It is important to note that every state has an insurance mandate for autism. Autism insurance mandates have been proven to have a positive impact on the states. MO's Department of Insurance stated that in its 2018 Autism Report that "the costs associated with the coverage mandate for the treatment of ASDs (Autism Spectrum Disorders) and ABA therapy has to date been minimal, even as the mandate has led to dramatically expanded coverage and the delivery of medically beneficial services." The cost for therapies for those with disabilities other than Autism Spectrum Disorders would be comparable. It is well worth the less than $1 per month it would cost to make sure medically necessary therapies are available to those with any disability.
(See the cost breakdown for adding all disabilities to Missouri's insurance mandate.)