Straight talk on health reform

This regular feature of Georgia Health News will answer questions about the impact of national health care reform.

Q: How will the Affordable Care Act affect my special-needs child, who has autism ?

S, from Atlanta

A:      Autism isn’t mentioned in the 2,000-plus page Affordable Care Act. The advocacy group Autism Speaks, though, points out that the ‘’essential health benefits package’’ that is required under reform includes coverage for ‘’behavioral health treatment.’’ The behavioral benefits haven’t been defined yet, but Stuart Spielman of Autism Speaks says he hopes they will include applied behavior analysis and other therapies for children with autism.

The ”essential benefits package” would apply to all insurance products purchased through the health insurance exchanges scheduled to launch in 2014, if the Affordable Care Act withstands possible attempts to gut or repeal it. The benefits package would not apply to large, self-insured employer plans.

Some provisions of the  Affordable Care Act provisions would indirectly help families’ coverage for autism, Spielman says. They include:

*  Prohibiting insurers from excluding coverage based on pre-existing conditions in children – a protection that would eventually be extended to adults.

*   Preventing insurers from dropping people’s coverage without cause.

*   Eliminating lifetime caps on coverage, and putting new restrictions on annual limits on coverage.

*   Barring insurers  from charging people different premiums based on their health status.

If you have a question about how the health care reform law might affect you, your family, employer or business, please send your query to We’ll  get the experts to answer it.