Helping every American with autism achieve their full potential is one of this administration’s top priorities. At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we continue to strive to meet the complex needs of all people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families. While there is no cure, early intervention is critical and can greatly improve a child’s development.
Perhaps the biggest step we’ve taken to support those affected by autism and their families happened over a year ago, with the signing of the Affordable Care Act. Now, new insurance plans are required to cover autism screening and developmental assessments for children at no cost to parents. Insurers will also no longer be allowed to deny children coverage for a pre-existing condition such as ASD or to set arbitrary lifetime or annual limits on benefits.
Also, thanks to the new law, young adults are allowed to stay on their family health insurance until they turn 26. For a young adult with autism spectrum disorder and their family, that means peace of mind. It means more flexibility, more options, and more opportunity to reach their full potential.
Ultimately, there is more support for Americans with autism than ever before. This means more promise of new breakthroughs that will help us understand autism even better. But in order to continue meeting the needs of people with autism, the Combating Autism Act must be fully reauthorized. We still have a long way to go. Working collaboratively with important partners, the Affordable Care Act and the Combating Autism Act will allow us to continue important research and develop and refine vital treatments.
There are still many unknowns. However, one thing is certain. We will continue to work harder than ever to find solutions and provide support to individuals with ASD and their families. Together, we can help reduce disparities and allow everyone to actualize their greatest potential.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services.