Colorado Senate backs mandatory coverage for autism |

Colorado Senate backs mandatory coverage for autism

DENVER, Colorado ” The Colorado Senate gave initial approval Friday to a proposal requiring private health insurers to cover treatment for autism.

Medicaid, the state’s health plan for the poor, has been exempted because the state doesn’t have any extra money to spend.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer acknowledged the measure (Senate Bill 244) wasn’t perfect but said it would provide much-needed early treatment for many children. That would include physical, speech and occupational therapy.

Opponents said they feared the measure could cause some people to lose health insurance by making health insurance more expensive.

For example, legislative analysts believe premiums for health insurance plans offered to state employees would be affected. They estimate employee-only coverage in the Kaiser Permanente plan would increase by $2.98 a month, and employee and family coverage under the San Luis Valley HMO would go up $40.45 a month.

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Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, opposed the bill but said he would work with any lawmaker willing to ask voters for a small increase in state sales tax to pay for autism treatment. He said it would be similar to last fall’s Amendment 51, a tax hike to help the developmentally disabled. Voters rejected that ballot measure along with others involving taxes.

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