Public Policy and Practice   |   Update: Feb. 4, 2011

CalABA Statement on Insurance Mandate Bill AB 171

Recently you may have received an alert regarding the introduction of an insurance mandate bill for the treatment of Autism (Assembly Bill 171 by Assembly member Jim Beall). CalABA unequivocally supports the need for health plans to cover ABA Tx, especially given its demonstrated ability to dramatically improve the lives of individuals diagnosed with ASD.

But AB 171 has a number of components to it, and we wanted to make you aware of those that would impact providers who hold BACB credentials. In addition, we would like to highlight how components of the bill could impact efforts to become licensed behavior analysts.

AB 171 would allow individuals with no specific credentials or education in the area of applied behavior analysis to provide services that the bill characterizes as "behavioral intervention therapy." It also appears that the term "behavioral intervention therapy" is intended to encompass Applied Behavior Analysis, in addition to a number of treatments that lack sufficient scientific evidence about their effectiveness.

Problems with this approach are twofold. First, we do not believe that it is appropriate to characterize Applied Behavior Analysis as the same as these other intervention services and models. As you know very well, ABA is a scientifically-based discipline with well-established protocols demonstrated to produce consistent, significant benefits to children, adolescents, and adults with ASD.

In addition, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, which is recognized in statute in many states, and is the basis for licensure in 6 of them, establishes standards for consumers to rely upon in evaluating those who provide ABA interventions and treatments. While we do not wish to degrade these other services, or those that provide them, it is simply inappropriate to "lump in" ABA services provided by a BACB certified professional with those other services and providers. Our credentialing process is a significant feature of our profession, and should be acknowledged as such. Furthermore, it is not in our interests, or those of consumers, to imply that non-BACB certified providers can provide ABA services. While we believe there are some who can, and respect the right of other licensees such as psychologists, to do so, AB 171 is crafted in such a way as to allow virtually anyone to provide ABA services. Such an approach is inconsistent with our commitment and responsibility to consumer protection.

Finally, while we support legislation that will respond to the insurance industry's efforts to avoid covering treatments for autism, we do not think that this cause is aided by a bill that states virtually anyone can provide those services. We recognize the legal requirement for insurers to have a credentialing process for those who provide services reimbursed by insurers, and we do not believe that it would be possible to do so under the language of AB 171. Our fear is that if the insurers have no basis for credentialing, it will further impede access to services.

We greatly appreciate the courage and spirit of those individuals and groups who are sponsoring AB 171 and support their efforts to preserve access to effective treatments for autism. Please know that CalABA is certainly willing to work towards resolving our concerns. However, at the present time CalABA cannot support the bill.