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Andrew Bailey and Barbara Fieldstone

From the Capitol

The latest Legislation from the Capitol on Autism related issues. 

Autism Treatment Concerns Raised

State health officials this week said 105 children have received autism therapy since the Medi-Cal benefit was officially launched Sept. 15. Officials said the state would require a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation before those services would be covered. 

UC Autism Summit offers hope for help

First step toward collaborating systemwide to address need for treatments. Epidemiologists and geneticists joined neuroscientists and psychiatrists as more than 50 researchers from five UC campuses participated in the daylong summit at the UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento. 


President Obama Signs Bill to Support the Needs of People with Autism

President Obama signed into law the bipartisan Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act, or Autism CARES Act of 2014, into law. Autism CARES, which reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act, continues important investments in research, prevalence monitoring and services for both children and adults on the autism spectrum. 

State: Autism Therapy a Medi-Cal Benefit

State officials said yesterday autism therapy clearly is a covered Medicaid benefit, and they hope to submit a state plan amendment by Sept. 30 to start the process to make it a Medi-Cal benefit for those under age 21.

Medi-Cal Funding For ABA Fails, But New Option Emerges: DHCS directed to add behavioral health treatment to state's Medicaid program, consult with stakeholders

SACRAMENTO (June 13, 2014) -- A $50 million appropriation sought for Medi-Cal to provide behavioral health treatment for autism failed to make the final cut in California's state budget negotiations. But the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) will be directed to incorporate the treatment in Medi-Cal, which is the state's Medicaid program, and request the Legislature for an appropriation. "We are disappointed that this appropriation failed, depriving hundreds of California children with autism with access to medically necessary treatment that can make an enormous improvement in their quality of life," said Kristin Jacobson, state policy chair for Autism Speaks. "This is particularly frustrating given the acknowledgment by at least two state agencies that delaying treatment causes irreparable harm.    

"However, we take heart in the Legislature's directive to DHCS to right this wrong by building the benefit into Medi-Cal," she added. "We commend Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (left) for his continued leadership on behalf of the California autism community." The issue arose in 2013 when the Healthy Families program was shuttered, resulting in the transfer of thousands of children into Medi-Cal. Children who were receiving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) behavioral treatment in Healthy Families lost the service when they entered Medi-Cal.

An attempt was made in the recently concluded state budget negotiations between the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to add a $50 million Medi-Cal appropriation to restore the coverage, but it failed to make the final agreement. In its place, behavioral health treatment was determined to be a Medi-Cal benefit and DCHS, which administers the program, was directed to start the administrative process of including it. That process will require outreach to federal Medicaid authorities as well as stakeholders. DCHS would need to seek statutory authority on how to implement the new benefit, and determine eligibility criteria, provider participation criteria, utilization controls and a delivery system structure. The department would be required to develop an appropriations request, conditioned on assurances of federal financial participation.

The Legislature directed DHCS to add the benefit when it is federally required. "We believe ABA coverage is already required under Medicaid given successful lawsuits in other states, such as Florida, and the federal government's recent approval of ABA benefits added by Louisiana and Washington state," Jacobson said. "The Louisiana and Washington plans now cover behavioral health treatment as a benefit under EPSDT (Early Periodic, Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment). "EPSDT benefits may not vary from state to state, so if the benefit is valid in one state it should be required in all states," she said.

Autism Leg Package

Dr. Lou Vismara, Policy Consultant to Senator Darrell Steinberg, announced that his office is working with other Senators on a package of bills that are related to autism & developmental disabilities. Attached is a list of this legislation. We will post more information as these bills advance through the legislative process.  Please forward this info to other interested individuals/organizations. 


California lawmakers revisit policies on autism treatments

The Autism Hearing on the implementation of California's autism insurance mandate (SB 946) was convened by Sen. Steinberg and other members of the Senate Select Committee on Autism & Related DisordersThe video of the hearing is available here . Information on the hearing is attached; and a TV news story on the hearing can be viewed at this site.


Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg "Speaks Out" in Support of Autism Legislation

California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg today, at the "Stand Up, Speak Out" rally, announced SB 126 that would extend a requirement for insurance companies to provide coverage of behavior therapy for autism spectrum disorder as a medical benefit until 2019.

House Approves 'Kids First' Bill Adding Research Funding

WASHINGTON, DC (December 11, 2013) -- The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act on a bipartisan 295-103 vote. The bill was first announced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, as a way to increase federal funding for pediatric research, including autism.

Sponsored by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the bill would redirect public funding now dedicated for the national Presidential party conventions to pediatric research, including for autism. The bill originally would have eliminated public funding for all elements of the Presidential campaigns, but it was modified to affect just funding for the conventions.

The bill moves next to the Senate. The bill was recently renamed after a 10-year-old girl who died in October following an 11-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor. It is estimated the bill would add $126 million for pediatric research grants over 10 years.

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