[Click above image to see coverage of HR2288 on Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC]
TRICARE does not cover autism therapies. A separate arm of services called the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) which is secondary to enrollment in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) does offer what amounts to an average of 11 hours of ABA therapy per week – far below the recommended 25-40 hours per week.
With HR2288 – the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act, we are asking that TRICARE take autism therapies out of ECHO and place them as medically necessary as part of TRICARE standard – thus making these proven treatments available to all active duty and retiree dependents and removing the dollar cap on care.
ECHO is not available to retirees.
Wounded Warriors who are forced to retire due to injury or disease do not have access to autism services. According to TRICARE/DoD data, less than 10% of active duty families who do have access to ECHO are accessing autism treatments, yet none are receiving the recommended amount because of the dollar cap ($36,000 per year).
Also, families accessing autism therapies under ECHO are forced to choose between ECHO benefits in order to maximize autism therapies. For every dollar of ECHO benefits used towards other services, a dollar of ABA is essentially taken away. We seek to change that. Autism therapies should not have barriers to receive care, they should be equally accessible to the military family as would treatment for heart defects or a broken arm.
With the advocacy efforts of Autism Speaks, 29 states have now passed insurance reform to include autism therapies as medically necessary – we are seeking to do the same for our military families. This is not an issue of civilian versus military, it is an effort to level the playing field for ALL children with autism. This effort neither detracts from or argues the continued efforts to make proven treatments readily available to all. In fact, for TRICARE to step up with best-practice standard of care for autism treatment, they would be taking the opportunity to once again set the standard for medical care throughout the insurance industry.
Thank you to Peter Bell, Executive Vice President of Programs and Services for Autism Speaks, for his support! It is the hard work of everyone at Autism Speaks taking the charge to make this right, along with all of the tremendous work they do for families across the globe, that gives me hope.
And my absolute sincerest gratitude to Ms. Andrea Mitchell at MSNBC. Andrea was not only a gracious host, but she is personally committed to autism awareness for all of our families living with autism.
My thanks to Marvin, the lovely gentleman who drove me to and from the airport. And many thanks to the entire team at Andrea Mitchell Reports for welcoming me and my story and treating me with respect and kindness.
[Don’t forget! You can write your US Representative & US Senator as often as your little heart desires! Tell them to support HR2288 –> HERE <–! THANK YOU!]