SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) -- Since 2008 in Illinois, only private insurance has covered applied behavior analysis -- a form of therapy proven most effective with people who have autism.
Low income families covered by medicaid aren't eligible for that service but House Bill 16 would expand autism medicaid treatments for thousands of Illinoisans.
"We knew from the beginning this was going to cause extreme barriers to access," Linda Tortorelli, an autism specialist at the University of Illinois said.
For over a decade, the Illinois medicaid plan requires that a practitioner must be a board certified behavior analyst -- and possess a second credential. The dual-credential requirement for autism treatments makes it inaccessible for 98 percent of families on medicaid.
"Applied Behavioral Analysis has been known as the golden standard for autism intervention. It's a type of therapy that increases communication skills, attention, social skills and academics," Tortorelli said. "By depriving this whole group of children who are economically disadvantaged to be so reliant on Medicaid, it deprives them of them reaching their full potential."
Illinois is one of the few states that require dual credentialing for applied behavioral analysis autism treatment. There's only 26 clinicians in the state with dual credentials through medicaid making access to care limited.
"We've had a year and a half go by with no clinicians stepping up to provide the service, to try and enroll into the Medicaid system to provide the service," Tortorelli said. "We knew all along that there weren't going to be providers we're available to sign up to meet this credential and that children were still not going to be served."
House Bill 16 aims to correct years of mistakes for autism coverage through medicaid.
"42 million dollars was dedicated to the budget and the governors budget in 2019 for this benefit and again no children have been able to access this benefit so no dollars have been spent with children with autism in Medicaid," Tortorelli said. "If we really care about the inequities for our children in health care that are low income, than our state leadership some come together and solve this problem today."
The bill has 3 weeks left in the Illinois General Assembly Session before being voted on.