Clinton unveils autism initiative for insurance

Hillary Clinton unveiled an initiative Tuesday, aimed at forcing health insurers to cover autism services.

The Democratic Presidential candidate rolled out the plan during a campaign stop in Iowa.

"Today I'm rolling out a policy to try to help families," Clinton said. "I want to make sure that the insurance companies cover the services that families need to help their child or young adult with autism. I want to be sure we have the services that people need as they get older."

Clinton's plan would impact Florida health coverage providers involved in the state's exchange in the Affordable Care Act because they are exempt from having to cover autistic patients. All other insurers in Florida currently face a limited autism coverage requirement.

The Clinton Campaign's website called the plan a "wide-ranging autism initiative-including screening, diagnosis, treatment, services, safety and legal protections for individuals on the autism spectrum across the lifespan, steps to ensure they are treated with dignity, partnerships to help them secure employment, support for families and caregivers, and a commitment to increase research funding to deepen our understanding of autism."

Fred Ullrich, the Director of Operations and Billing with Behavioral Consulting of Tampa Bay, said a lot of families would be helped out by this kind of change.

"If there was a standard policy in place, like autism coverage is covered 100 percent and families can come up to  40 hours a week, it would prove wonderful," he said, adding families could face a high price if they pay for services entirely out-of-pocket. "Depending how often we see them volume-wise, they could end up spending anywhere between 36-and-40,000 dollars a year."

Kim Conley, who has twin 14-year-old girls who are both autistic, was surprised to find out Florida insurance companies aren't already facing the requirements Clinton is proposing.

"I find it very hard to believe because there's a lot of children down here with autism," she said.

The needs of Conley's children include therapy, medication and ankle braces that cost $1,000 a piece.

The expenses are fully covered under Medicaid and their mother can't imagine what she would do without it.

"If that ever happens, I don't know what we're going to do because if, Gd forbid they had to go to the hospital  or something, we would not be able to pay for it," Conley said.

Clinton's plan, which does not specify how much more of the burden would fall on insurers, also calls for early autism screenings, bullying-prevention and an initiative to help young adults with autism find jobs.