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Rates of ASD Diagnosis Up With New Insurance Mandates

Numbers still below prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in the United States, researcher says

TUESDAY, July 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) — More U.S. children are getting diagnosed and treated for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in states that require commercial health insurers to cover these services, according to research published online July 11 in JAMA Pediatrics.

David Mandell, Sc.D., of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues analyzed inpatient and outpatient health insurance claims from 2008 through 2012 for more than one million children aged 21 and younger. The patients were covered by United HealthCare, Aetna, and Humana, three of the largest U.S. health insurers.

Over the course of the study, 154,089 children were diagnosed with ASD. Overall, the mandates resulted in a 12.7 percent annual increase in diagnoses, the researchers said. The longer these laws were in place, the more children were identified, with an 18 percent jump noted in the final years of the study. In states with ASD mandates the rate of diagnosis was 1.8 per 1,000 children, compared to 1.6 per 1,000 children in states that lacked such requirements.

“We now know that more children are being served, but we are also acutely aware that these numbers are well below the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in our society, indicating that the mandates have not had the full effect that advocates desired,” Mandell said in a university news release. “This is merely a step in the right direction. These mandates represent a patch, not a panacea.”

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