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California insurer agrees to cover autism behavior therapy
By Insure.com staff

UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co. will offer immediate coverage of behavior therapy for autism as a medical benefit in California. The move comes as part of a recent agreement reached with the California Department of Insurance.

The new agreement follows three settlements reached earlier this year between the department and Blue Shield, Health Net and Cigna to provide behavior health treatments, including applied behavior analysis, an intensive therapy that uses behavior conditioning techniques to help children with autism learn speech and social skills, as well as other skills.

In addition, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones confirmed another major health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross of California, has been providing the coverage at the direction of the department since November 2009.

"This new agreement means even more families affected by autism have hope for a brighter future," Jones said in a press statement.

Prior to the agreement, UnitedHealthcare rejected claims for Applied Behavior Analysis, saying the treatment was experimental and investigational, according to the department.

UnitedHealthcare also agreed to maintain an adequate provider network for autism treatment and provide the amount of services specified by the insured patients' providers. The company will also create a customer service unit with staff specially trained to handle questions about applied behavior analysis, provide information about policy benefits for treatment, screening or diagnosis, verify coverage or eligibility, and provide prior authorization, if required.

The department added a special autism page to its website as a resource for consumers.

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