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McAdams Joins Advocates in Promoting County Autism Benefits Expansion

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams told members of the press today, if the county expands employee health insurance benefits to include autism coverage, it will save taxpayer dollars in the long run and create a more productive workforce.

Last week McAdams presented his 2014 county budget proposal to the council, which includes an expansion of employee health packages to include autism coverage.

He says it will cost the county $36,000 per child for children who’ve been diagnosed with autism ages zero to nine and $15,000 for children ages ten to eighteen. The county isn’t sure exactly how many employees will enroll, but the estimated total cost would be about $200,000 per year. Utah has the highest rate of autism in the country, but insurance companies here aren’t required to include autism health benefits.   

“It’s the right thing to do for the taxpayer,” McAdams says. “It’s to help people and families live independent of government programs and assistance. We also want our salt lake county employees who want the best for the children to know that we’re supporting them in providing for their children.”

Autism Spectrum Disorders, as they’re often referred to are a group of development disabilities that are usually diagnosed in early childhood.

Christine Passey is vice president of the Utah Autism Coalition.

She says the expansion will change families’ lives.

“As the parent of a child with autism, who waited over three years to have my daughter say my name, to say mom and to tell me I love you, this is a big deal,” Passey says. “She did that because of therapy.”

Passey says many families forego treatment because the intensive one on one therapy that many autistic children need can cost $20,000 to $80,000 a year.

The Salt Lake County Council will finalize the budget before the end of the year. If they approve an expansion to include autism, the coverage would begin April first of next year. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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