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Summit Helps Utah Families Prepare for Autism Mandate

Next year, many health insurance providers in Utah will be required to cover autism treatment. A summit is taking place on Monday to help prepare parents for the state’s autism mandate.

Jon Owen has an eight year-old son with autism. He’s also the President of the Utah Autism Coalition. Owen says the therapy his son has received has been life changing, but it’s required his family to take out a second mortgage. Most parents in Utah have had to pay out of pocket if they want autism treatment, and it can be as much as 50,000 dollars a year.

“We know people who have gone bankrupt over this, and it’s to get your kid to be able to function in society. That’s, you know, a pretty big deal for anybody,” Owen says.

In 2014, the Utah state legislature passed a law requiring certain health insurance plans to cover autism. The mandate goes into effect on January 1st. It applies to the individual market and large group employers. Small businesses and self-insured companies are exempt, but those employers could choose to include autism in their plans. Owen estimates that at least 25% of Utah children with autism will gain access to coverage. And now with Medicaid also covering autism treatment, Owen expects there will be much more demand for specialized therapy.

“Suddenly a whole bunch more people are going to be able to pay for the care. We assume that more people will take advantage of that,” Owen says. “At least in the short term, it will be hard to find a therapist, I would think.”

Owen expects families will have a lot of questions about how to access insurance and treatment. The Autism Mandate Summit takes place Monday, 5:30 pm, at Adobe headquarters in Lehi. The event will also be broadcast live to multiple sites around Utah. For more information, visit

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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