State mandate laws for autism coverage and high-deductible health plans

Colleen L. Barry, Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, David Mandell, Andrew J. Epstein, Molly Candon, Matthew Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Most states have passed insurance mandates requiring health plans to cover services for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Research reveals that these mandates increased treated prevalence, service use, and spending on ASD-related care. As employer-sponsored insurance shifts toward high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), it is important to understand how mandates affect children with ASD in HDHPs relative to traditional, low-deductible plans. METHODS: Insurance claims for 2008–2012 for children covered by 3 large US insurers (United Healthcare, Aetna, and Humana) available through the Health Care Cost Institute were used to compare the effects of mandates on ASD-related spending for children in HDHPs and traditional health plans. RESULTS: Relative to children in traditional plans, mandates were associated with higher average monthly spending increases for children in HDHPs. Mandate-attributable spending differences between children enrolled in HDHPs relative to traditional plans were $77 for ASD-specific services (95% confidence interval [CI]: $10 to $144), $125 for outpatient health services (95% CI: $26 to $223), and $144 for all health services (95% CI: $36 to $253). These spending differentials were driven by differences in plan spending and not out-of-pocket (OOP) spending. CONCLUSIONS: Spending on ASD-related services attributable to autism mandates was higher among children in HDHPs, but higher spending did not translate into a greater OOP burden. For families with consistently high health care expenditures on ASD-related services, high-deductible products may be worth considering in the context of mandate laws. Families in mandate states with children with ASD enrolled in HDHPs were able to increase service use without paying more OOP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20182391
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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