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  1. President Obama has Signed ESSA Education Refor...

    December 9, 2015- "President Obama has Signed ESSA Education Reform Bill"- Recently, President Obama signed S.1777, or the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bill that aims to improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which was last reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind Act. The new bill accommodates state and local school district flexibility while maintaining accountability requirements for improvements of “subgroups” of students, such as those in special education. The language further requires school districts to identify and provide evidence-based improvement plans in any schools in which students are not learning. The bill also includes provisions that would expand access to early education.

    • Dec 11 2015 10:48 AM
    • by brian
  2. ABA Coverage Improves for Federal Employees in...

    December 10, 2015- "ABA Coverage Improves for Federal Employees in 2016, but Gaps Remain"- The Federal health benefits open season, which occurs through December 14th, offers families affected by autism an opportunity to review their coverage of ABA under Federal Health Employee Benefits (FEHB) plans. The Autism Speaks Advocacy Team has looked at coverage for ABA and found that it is available under 2016 FEHB plans in part of or all of 27 states. This is an improvement from the 21 states that covered ABA in 2015, but significant gaps in coverage remain, which are further discussed in this article.  

    • Dec 11 2015 10:31 AM
    • by brian
  3. Senate Passes Measure to Support Family Caregivers

    December 9, 2015- "Senate Passes Measure to Support Family Caregivers"- The U.S. Senate recently signed off on the bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage, or RAISE Family Caregivers Act. The act creates a national strategy to assist family caregivers. In the words of Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), “The RAISE Family Caregivers Act will launch a coordinated, national strategic plan that will help us leverage our resources, promote innovation and promising practices, and provides our nation’s family caregivers with much-needed recognition and support.”

    • Dec 09 2015 11:57 AM
    • by brian
  4. Ohio Lawmakers Expand Access to Autism Scholars...

    December 9, 2015- "Ohio Lawmakers Expand Access to Autism Scholarships"- Lawmakers in Ohio are expanding access to scholarships for children with autism. Recently, the Ohio House passed a measure that would allow people who legally look after children with autism to apply for grants up to $27,000. The money is intended to pay for special education programs outside of what is provided by their local school district. Traditionally, only the natural or adoptive parent could apply for the grants, but now, if the measure is signed into law, anyone who legally parents a child with autism of school age, even temporarily, can apply.

    • Dec 09 2015 11:12 AM
    • by brian
  5. Autism Speaks Applauds Education Bill Passage

    December 3, 2015- "Autism Speaks Applauds Education Bill Passage"- Recently, Congress passed a bill known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, an elementary and secondary education bill that improves the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which was last reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind Act. One of the features of the bill is that it holds schools accountable for the performance of students with disabilities to ensure their access to the general education curriculum. Until the most recent reauthorization of ESEA in 2001, students with disabilities were excluded from state accountability systems, inhibiting access and exposure to the general curriculum. The bill further requires school districts to identify and provide evidence-based improvements plans in any schools in which students are not learning. The bill also includes provisions that would expand access to early education. The bill still requires Senate approval, but the House vote was seen as the higher hurdle because of resistance from some conservative republicans, who believed the bill did not reduce the federal role enough. The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week, and President Obama has indicated that he will sign it into law.  

    • Dec 03 2015 03:33 PM
    • by brian
  6. Tricare to Change Autism Therapy Reimbursement...

    December 1, 2015- "Tricare to Change Autism Therapy Reimbursement Rates"- When Tricare consolidated its various ABA therapy benefit programs, the Autism Care Demo Project also proposed slashing reimbursement rates to some providers by nearly half prompting some to say they would no longer accept Tricare. Instead, the DoD postponed implementation of severe cuts and partnered with the Rand Corp. and a health policy research firm to help determine whether the level of coverage for ABA in the military health system was appropriate. The new reimbursement rates, which are 20 percent higher than Medicaid’s rate for ABA, are a result of this review. DoD now pays doctorate- and master’s-level therapists $125 an hour, bachelor’s degree level providers $75 an hour, and technicians $50 an hour. The new basic national hourly rates will change to $114.23 for doctorate-level therapists, $107.14 for master’s therapists, $67.39 for therapists with bachelor’s degrees, and $40.12 for technicians. According to Tricare Health Plan Director Mary Kaye Justis, the new rates are designed to ensure beneficiaries can access treatment while ensuring the government is not overpaying for therapy.

    • Dec 03 2015 01:22 PM
    • by brian
  7. New State Program Planned for People with Disab...

    December 1, 2015- "New State Program Planned for People with Disabilities"- Tennessee will utilize the funds they save from the closure of two intensive, institutional care centers to fund a new program intended to serve people disabilities who currently receive no services. The budget proposals were presented by the state’s TennCare program and the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. More than 60,000 people are on a wait list for state services, with some having been on the list for more than a decade. The Employment and Community First CHOICES program will cost approximately $24 million in its year and serve up to 1,700 people in its first year. The program will provide job training and in-home services designed to keep people with disabilities as independent as possible in their own homes and with families. An outline of the entire proposal is available within this article.

    • Dec 03 2015 10:03 AM
    • by brian
  8. Federal Suit Says State Provides Inadequate Men...

    December 1, 2015- "Federal Suit Says State Provides Inadequate Mental Health Care"- A disability-rights group has filed a federal lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, claiming three people with autism and mental illness remained institutionalized solely because of the state’s failure to provide sufficient community-based services. The suit claims the state does not have enough beds in community-care programs for all those needing autism and mental health services, which include more than 1,000 on wait lists. The suit is the third in as many years alleging the state inadequately cared for people with mental illness.

    • Dec 02 2015 11:56 AM
    • by brian
  9. IRS Relaxes Rules for New ABLE Accounts

    November 30, 2015- "IRS Relaxes Rules for New ABLE Accounts"- The Internal Revenue Service is easing up on rules for new ABLE accounts that will allow people with disabilities to save money without jeopardizing their government benefits. The agency has recently received significant pushback from disability advocates with regards to their policy related to how Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts would operate. In a recent notice, the IRS said it plans to issue final regulations with less stringent reporting requirements. Specifically, individuals opening ABLE accounts will not need to submit medical documentation, but will have to certify under penalty of perjury that they have a qualifying diagnosis. Additionally, the agency indicated that ABLE programs will not be required to request taxpayer identification numbers from contributors to ABLE accounts except in limited circumstances and program administrators will not have to categorize what money in the accounts is used for.

    • Nov 30 2015 02:07 PM
    • by brian
  10. Autism Advocates Burn Over State Plan

    November 17, 2015- "Autism Advocates Burn Over State Plan"- Advocates in California have called the proposed requirements for Medi-Cal beneficiaries to receive ABA therapy “onerous and a barrier to accessing care.” The letter outlined the process for autism diagnosis and rules for treatment, which have been deemed excessive and will impede access to care for many of the estimated 75,000 Medi-Cal kids in California with autism, according to advocates. Some of the criticized aspects of the draft include a lengthy diagnostic assessment for every Medi-Cal beneficiary, even if a child has already been diagnosed, an assessment by a speech pathologist and occupational therapist before treatment can begin, therapy is not to be conducted in a school setting, and participating providers need to file a status update every month to managed care plans.    

    • Nov 18 2015 11:41 AM
    • by brian
  11. Blue Cross Must Cover In-School Autism Care, Pa...

    November 16, 2015- "Blue Cross Must Cover In-School Autism Care, Pa. Judges Say"- The Burke family recently won a suit they filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in 2010 to overturn a decision made by IPRO, an independent certified review agency, that affirmed Independence Blue Cross’ denial of coverage for ABA services. On Friday, a decision from the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the Autism Insurance Act, requiring the insurer to cover the Burke’s family for autism-related services despite a policy exclusion in the even that care was provided by other facilities, such as schools. The details of the case are fully discussed in the conclusion of this article.  

    • Nov 18 2015 09:27 AM
    • by brian
  12. Nevada Upping Pay for Autism Therapists

    November 9, 2015- "Nevada Upping Pay for Autism Therapists"- Last month, we posted an article discussing what many parents and advocates in Nevada thought was inadequate pay for ABA technicians as proposed by Nevada Medicaid. The proposed rate of $29.61, which would represent the lowest pay for these services in the country according to advocates, was recently increased to $31.31 an hour, a rate that is still far below the requested $40.00 an hour. Parents say better pay is necessary to attract registered ABA technicians. Nevada currently has 113 registered behavior technicians and next year ABA will be covered through Medicaid for the first time in the state, increasing the need for professionals.  

    • Nov 16 2015 11:29 AM
    • by brian
  13. President's Committee Look at Technology in...

    November 5, 2015- "President's Committee Look at Technology in Improving Quality of Life"- Recently, the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) published their annual report to the President titled “Leveling the Playing Field: Improving Technology Access and Design for People with Intellectual Disabilities.” It highlights the important role technology has in providing people with disabilities greater accessibility and control over their lives. New research indicates students with disabilities who are included in general education settings have better success academically and in postsecondary education, but students with autism face significant barriers to full inclusion in general education settings. Access to assistive technology can serve as a pathway to general education classrooms. However, a major barrier to acquiring assistive technology for a student with autism is a lack of awareness about available accommodations to improve the accessibility of educational materials. This is why it is imperative that parents and advocates understand students' rights under IDEA in order to secure the appropriate assistive technology for students with autism.

    • Nov 09 2015 11:01 AM
    • by brian
  14. Following Hiatus, Federal Autism Panel Returns

    October 30, 2015- "Following Hiatus, Federal Autism Panel Returns"- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said this week that the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee will convene November 17, more than a year since their last meeting. Moreover, more than half of the 15-person committee is now comprised of new individuals. The committee is charged with making recommendations to federal officials on nationwide autism-related programs and activities.

    • Nov 03 2015 11:30 AM
    • by brian
  15. Spokane Firefighter Pioneers Alert System to He...

    October 28, 2015- "Spokane Firefighter Pioneers Alert System to Help Autistic Children"-  The Isaac Foundation and Spokane Fire Lieutenant John Goodman are working to develop a groundbreaking alert system to help children with autism and other disorders. The Isaac Alert system will let firefighters know when they are heading to a call where a child with autism resides. Residents register their son with the alert system by providing their address and some of their child’s character traits so that firefighters, who receive extra training to engage with children with autism, know that a child with autism is present and may require further assistance.

    • Nov 02 2015 11:26 AM
    • by brian
  16. Michigan's Autism Fund Will Run Out of Mone...

    October 28, 2015- Michigan's Autism Fund Will Run Out of Money in November, Officials Say-  In 2012, Michigan mandated that insurance companies provide coverage for autism diagnosis and treatment, but the legislation didn't apply to large employers that self-fund their health insurance. To incentivize these large companies, a $15 million fund was established to reimburse insurers for paid claims related to autism coverage. However, companies were slow to make claims, causing the legislature to redistribute the funds over the next few budget cycles to provide grants for universities training health care professionals in autism. Now, as reimbursement claims become more frequent, the fund is likely to run dry before the end of November. Lawmakers are now looking into the issue to see if and how to build back the fund as the state’s leaders urge them to provide more money in order for families to maintain coverage of services.

    • Oct 28 2015 10:41 AM
    • by brian
  17. Claim: Proposed Pay for ABA Therapy would be Lo...

    October 20, 2015- "Claim: Proposed Pay for ABA Therapy would be Lowest in Nation"-  Advocates in Nevada are worried the state’s proposed reimbursement rate of $29.61 per hour for registered behavior technicians, which is effectively the wages of those who provide the bulk of therapy, is too low to attract and retain skilled providers. According to a representative of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, the proposed figure would represent the lowest in the country.

    • Oct 21 2015 12:30 PM
    • by brian
  18. Training Aims to Help NYC School Aides to Kids...

    October 10, 2015- "Training Aims to Help NYC School Aides to Kids With Autism"- In the wake of the death of Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with autism who wandered from a NYC public school in 2013, legislators pass Avonte’s Law – legislation requiring audible alarms on doors as well as additional training to stop kids from eloping. Last year, there were 14,600 children with autism in NY city schools, up from 6,000 in 2008. These students work with paraprofessionals, who are not required to have a college degree and typically earn $30,000 a year, which is about $20,000 less than the minimum New York City teacher. This training is designed to provide these paraprofessionals with the some of the same tools used by well-paid private therapists.

    • Oct 13 2015 10:39 AM
    • by brian
  19. TRICARE Announces Autism Care Demonstration Upd...

    October 5, 2015- "TRICARE Announces Autism Care Demonstration Updates"- Recently, TRICARE announced improvements to Tricare’s Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) including improvements in coverage for ABA services for non-active duty families. This article includes links to the TRICARE website on the Autism Care Demonstration and on their ABA coverage.

    • Oct 14 2015 09:35 AM
    • by brian
  20. Kansans with Disabilities Brace for State's...

    October 2, 2015- "Kansans with Disabilities Brace for State's Chance in Services"- A new change in Medicaid services for individuals with disabilities in Kansas allows individuals services that aren’t usually covered by Medicaid. Additionally, the current system of seven different classifications for waivers will be combined into two pools: one for kids and one for adults. The state says it wants to make the switch to offer more services to more people and lower the wait list without spending more money. However, the change is slated to into effect in July of 2016, but the state has yet to release a first draft of the plan. Details on the proposed waiver system and how it will affect both individuals with disabilities and providers are discussed within this article.

    • Oct 05 2015 01:20 PM
    • by brian
  21. North Carolina Passes Autism Insurance Reform L...

    September 29, 2015- "North Carolina Passes Autism Insurance Reform Legislation"- New legislation to require certain health plans to cover the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism in North Carolina now awaits the signature of Gov. Pat McRory. When signed, the legislation will go into effect July 1, 2016 and apply to insurance contracts renewed on or after that date. When determined to be medically necessary, the legislation will cover therapeutic care, psychiatric care, psychological care, pharmacy care, and adaptive behavior treatment, which includes Applied Behavior Analysis and may be limited to $40,000 per year and capped at age 18.

    • Sep 30 2015 08:18 AM
    • by brian
  22. Despite Growth, SSI May Be Under-Serving Kids

    September 22, 2015- "Despite Growth, SSI May Be Under-Serving Kids"- Supplemental Security Income added more than 328,000 children with disabilities to its rolls between 2004 and 2013. The increase is largely in line with population and economic trends. However, the program has come under scrutiny in recent years, with reports that some low-income families use the program as a second form of welfare. However, a 378-page program review commissioned by the Social Security Administration suggests that “too few” children are receiving government benefits.  

    • Sep 24 2015 10:04 AM
    • by brian
  23. Siblings Now Included in Coverage for Family an...

    August 25, 2015- "Siblings Now Included in Coverage for Family and Medical Leave"- Recently, the Department of Labor clarified the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include siblings among those eligible for job-protected leave. In two updated fact sheets, which can be found within the article, the department clarifies when siblings are eligible for unpaid, job-protected leave for their own health or to care for a family member. Expanding the FMLA’s definition to include siblings will allow families to assist and care for their family members without fear of losings one’s job.

    • Sep 14 2015 10:02 AM
    • by brian
  24. Pharma Company May Have Downplayed Side Effects...

    August 20, 2015- "Pharma Company May Have Downplayed Side Effects of Autism Drug"- According to evidence presented in a lawsuit, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the leading manufacturer of the widely used autism drug risperidone, omitted data on the drug’s side effects from a 2003 study. The drug is one of only two ever approved for autism.  Initially the drug was deemed unsafe for prepubescent children because it can boost levels of prolactin, a hormone that help new mothers produce milk. Elevated prolactin levels are linked to a range of side effects. Evidence from the lawsuit indicates that a 2003 study backed by Janssen said it did not find a link between elevated prolactin levels in boys and gynecomastia or other side effects that could result from excess prolactin. The article goes on to discuss the lawsuit, the study, and the data that was omitted.

    • Aug 21 2015 12:46 PM
    • by brian
  25. Texas' Cuts to Medicaid Could Leave Poor Wi...

    August 4, 2015- "Texas' Cuts to Medicaid Could Leave Poor Without Therapy"- Texas Legislature has ordered a $350 million cut this year to Medicaid pay for therapists who provide outpatient therapy. The move threatens the jobs of speech, physical, and occupational therapists who work with 445,000 Texans with a number of disorders. The article goes onto discuss the ongoing battle between Medicaid advocates and red state’s lawmakers.

    • Aug 07 2015 09:23 AM
    • by brian