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The Impact of Autism Laws in Arkansas

Discover the impact of autism laws in Arkansas, from insurance mandates to educational services.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
March 8, 2024
8 min read
min read

Understanding Autism Laws in Arkansas

Autism laws in Arkansas have undergone significant changes in recent years to foster an environment that supports the needs of individuals with autism and their families. This section will provide an overview of autism laws and delve into the key legislation in Arkansas.

Overview of Autism Laws

Autism laws are regulations enacted by states to provide services, support, and protections for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These laws often address areas such as insurance coverage, educational services, and state-funded programs for ASD individuals.

In Arkansas, the state law mandates insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorder, requiring health benefit plans to cover the treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorders diagnosed between 18 months and 8 years of age. The coverage includes a minimum of $50,000 per year for applied behavior analysis (ABA) and other primary health services like speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy [1].

Key Autism Legislation in Arkansas

There have been several significant pieces of legislation related to autism in Arkansas. Key among them are the Arkansas Act 196 and Arkansas Act 192.

Arkansas Act 196 requires insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children up to age 18, with a maximum benefit of $50,000 per year for ABA therapy. Furthermore, treatment includes applied behavior analysis, pharmacy care, psychiatric care, psychological care, therapeutic care, necessary equipment, and evidence-based care prescribed by a licensed physician. It's important to note that the provisions requiring benefits that exceed the essential health benefits under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable care Act are not required in Arkansas after January 1, 2014.

Arkansas Act 192, on the other hand, sought to establish the Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) as a separate state agency, effective July 1, 2019. The services administered by DDS are subject to the Arkansas Code, Title 20, Chapters 42 and 47.

These autism laws in Arkansas reflect the state's commitment to ensuring access to essential services for individuals with autism. They play a critical role in providing financial relief to families, ensuring access to effective treatments, and ultimately improving the quality of life for individuals with autism.

Insurance Coverage for Autism

In Arkansas, legislative measures have been enacted to ensure that individuals affected by autism receive the insurance coverage they need for treatment and care. These measures, known as autism mandates, play a crucial role in the financial accessibility of autism services.

Autism Insurance Mandates

Arkansas Act 196 is a key piece of legislation when it comes to autism insurance mandates. This act requires insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children up to age 18, with a maximum benefit of $50,000 per year for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.

This mandate applies to fully insured, self-insured, and Medicaid plans. The purpose is to ensure that all people affected by autism receive coverage for necessary treatments, particularly ABA therapy, which is a common and effective treatment for autism [2].

Limits and Specifications of Coverage

Under the Autism Coverage Mandate in Arkansas, coverage for autism spectrum disorders is provided for behavioral health treatments including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy [3].

More specifically, Arkansas state law mandates insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorder, requiring health benefit plans to cover the treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorders diagnosed between 18 months and 8 years of age. The minimum coverage is $50,000 per year for applied behavior analysis and other primary health services like speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. This law applies to insurance plans issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2012 [4].

In addition to ABA therapy, the required coverage in Arkansas includes pharmacy care, psychiatric care, psychological care, therapeutic care, necessary equipment, and evidence-based care prescribed by a licensed physician.

In summary, the autism laws in Arkansas have significantly improved access to necessary treatments for individuals with autism. By mandating insurance coverage, these laws help to alleviate the financial burden on families and ensure that individuals with autism receive the care they need.

Autism Services and Providers

Understanding autism laws in Arkansas extends beyond legislation and insurance mandates. It's also essential to be aware of the role service providers play and the regulations they operate under.

Role of Developmental Disabilities Services

In Arkansas, Act 192 established the Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) as a separate state agency, effective from July 1, 2019. This agency's role is primarily to administer services for individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities, including autism.

These services are regulated by Arkansas Code, Title 20, Chapters 42 and 47. The aim is to provide necessary treatments and therapies to individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). This encompasses behavioral health treatments, notably Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.

Licensing and Regulation of Providers

The licensing and regulation of autism service providers in Arkansas is a critical aspect of ensuring individuals diagnosed with ASD receive the highest standard of care. Providers are regulated under the Autism Coverage Mandate, passed in 2011, which requires insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders up to a certain age.

Under the Autism Coverage Mandate in Arkansas, coverage for autism spectrum disorders is provided for behavioral health treatments, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. This mandate covers individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders up to the age of 18, providing them access to essential treatments and therapies.

Ensuring service providers are licensed and regulated not only guarantees quality care but also ensures that families have access to necessary treatments. As a part of the broader landscape of autism laws in Arkansas, understanding the role and regulation of service providers is key to ensuring individuals on the autism spectrum have access to the support they need.

Autism and Education in Arkansas

Education forms a vital component in the lives of individuals with autism. In Arkansas, several provisions under federal and state laws ensure that students with autism receive adequate support and services within the public school system.

Special Education under IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) plays a significant role in the educational landscape for students with autism. Schools in Arkansas are mandated to provide special education services to eligible children aged 3 to 21 years, in accordance with IDEA. This includes providing free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities, including autism, through an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The IEP forms the cornerstone of the student's educational program, outlining the specific services the student will receive, such as speech therapy or occupational therapy. It also sets measurable academic and functional goals for the student and details how progress will be tracked.

Accessing Services in Public Schools

Arkansas state law firmly establishes that students with autism spectrum disorder must have appropriate services in a public school setting. This is facilitated through an IEP, tailored to address their specific needs. It is essential that students with autism are educated in the least restrictive environment where they can receive a meaningful educational benefit [6].

Parents or legal guardians of children with autism in Arkansas can request an evaluation for special education services if they suspect their child has a disability that affects their educational performance. This request should be made in writing to the child's school district, which will then provide the necessary evaluation procedures and services based on the child’s needs.

Arkansas provides a plethora of resources to support families raising children with autism, offering a range of services from early intervention to transition planning for adulthood. These resources are designed to guide and assist families through the educational system and in accessing necessary services for their children with autism.

Despite these provisions and supports, it is important to note that Arkansas does not have any specific laws regarding the rights and protections of individuals with autism. Thus, advocacy and awareness-raising continue to be vital elements in ensuring the rights of individuals with autism are recognized and upheld in Arkansas.

Recent Developments in Autism Laws

In recent years, there have been notable changes relating to autism laws in Arkansas. These alterations have been focused on two primary areas: changes in autism insurance coverage and the establishment of a legislative task force on autism.

Changes in Autism Insurance Coverage

Taking strides toward more inclusive insurance coverage, Arkansas enacted the Autism Coverage Mandate in 2011. This mandate requires insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders up to a certain age. The aim of this mandate was to improve access to affordable and comprehensive care for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, particularly during the critical developmental stages of childhood and adolescence.

Following the mandate, Arkansas Act 196 was passed, stipulating that insurance companies are required to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children up to age 18. This coverage includes a maximum benefit of $50,000 per year for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. With the passing of the Autism Insurance Reform Act, Arkansas became the 46th state to enact autism insurance reform on April 7, 2011, requiring state-regulated health plans to cover autism diagnosis and treatment.

Legislative Task Force on Autism

Furthermore, Arkansas has seen the establishment of the Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) as a separate state agency, effective from July 1, 2019. This development was brought about by Arkansas Act 192, which identifies the important role of the DDS in providing services to those with autism spectrum disorders.

The creation of this separate state agency underscores the growing recognition and understanding of autism in Arkansas. It is a promising move toward providing more comprehensive and specialized services for individuals with autism and their families.

These recent developments in the autism laws in Arkansas demonstrate the state's commitment to enhancing support for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families. As these laws continue to evolve, it's expected that they will further improve the quality of care and services available to those affected by autism.

Impact of Autism Laws on Families

The autism laws in Arkansas have significant implications for families with members on the autism spectrum. This impact extends to the financial aspects and the support and advocacy available for affected families.

Financial Implications of Autism Laws

The financial burden associated with raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be substantial. According to the NCSL, the average medical expenditures for a child with ASD exceed those without by $4,110 to $6,200 per year.

However, Arkansas state law mandates insurance coverage for ASD, requiring health benefit plans to cover the treatment of individuals with ASD diagnosed between 18 months and 8 years of age at a minimum coverage of $50,000 per year for applied behavior analysis and other primary health services like speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. This law applies to insurance plans issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2012 [4].

Additionally, Arkansas requires health benefit plans to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Treatment includes applied behavior analysis, pharmacy care, psychiatric care, psychological care, therapeutic care, necessary equipment, and evidence-based care prescribed by a licensed physician.

The coverage for applied behavior analysis in Arkansas is limited to $50,000 annually and is only available for children under 18 years of age. There are no limits on the number of visits to an autism services provider [5].

Advocacy and Support for Affected Families

In addition to financial support through insurance mandates, Arkansas provides various resources to support families raising children with autism. These resources offer a range of services from early intervention to transition planning for adulthood. The aim is to guide and assist families through the educational system and accessing necessary services for their children with autism.

These support structures provide much-needed relief for families, allowing them to navigate the complexities of ASD and the educational system with confidence. However, it's important for families to actively seek out these resources and understand how best to utilize them to support their child's development and well-being.

In conclusion, the autism laws in Arkansas provide both financial support and resources for families dealing with ASD. This combination of support aims to reduce the financial burden on families and provide the necessary tools and resources to ensure children with ASD receive the care and education they need.

References

[1]: https://pediatrics.aappublications.com/

[2]: https://humanservices.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/ddschildrensguide.pdf

[3]: https://humanservices.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/Interested-Persons-Packet-Autism-Rate-Study.pdf

[4]: https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/special-education/parent-and-family-resources/parent-faqs

[5]: https://www.ncsl.org/health/autism-and-insurance-coverage-state-laws

[6]: https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/special-education/parent-and-family-resources/parent-ffaqs

[7]: https://disabilityrightsar.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/A-Parents-Guide-DRA-.pdf

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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