May 14, 2014

Gillibrand Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Ensure Health Coverage for Military Children with Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that uniformed services families’ health plans provide adequate coverage for children and loved ones with disabilities. The Caring for Military Children with Developmental Disabilities Act of 2014 requires TRICARE, the Department of Defense and retiree health program for members of the uniformed services and their families, to provide coverage for behavioral health treatments, including applied behavior analysis (ABA).  

Under current TRICARE policies, many children are denied coverage for ABA, and those children who do receive care often receive less than the prescribed treatment.  That places TRICARE behind the curve of thirty-four states and the District of Columbia, which require private insurers to cover ABA as a medically necessary service for most children with a developmental disability.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management also categorizes ABA as a "medical therapy” and covers ABA for federal employees’ dependents.

“It is alarming that our military families who have sacrificed so much are denied essential services for their children suffering from autism and other developmental disabilities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This legislation will help ensure that our military families have access to the critical services, care and support they desperately need and deserve.”

Behavioral health treatments for children with developmental disabilities are widely recognized as effective therapies that can help children learn the skills to be successful in school, live independently, and find meaningful employment.  However, despite the widely-recognized benefits of these treatments, they are not always available for families who receive their health care through TRICARE.  The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institute of Mental Health support behavioral health parity so that evidence based therapies can be accessed by children and youth with developmental disabilities. This includes systematic application of ABA for children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

 A one-page summary of the legislation is available here.

Organizations supporting the Caring for Military Children with Developmental Disabilities Act of 2014 include:

American Association on Health and Disability

American Network of Community Options and Resources

Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Autism Speaks

Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service

Council for Exceptional Children

Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children

Easter Seals

Higher Education Consortium for Special Education

IDEA Infant & Toddler Coordinators Association

Military Officers Association of America

National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors

National Association of State Directors of Special Education

National Council for Behavioral Health

National Council on Independent Living

National Military Family Association

Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children

The Arc of the United States