Anthem Insurance Cos. Inc. will pay almost $1.63 million to end
claims that it violated federal benefit laws by placing certain
caps on the coverage of therapy treatments for children with
severe autism disorders.
Anthem also agrees to stop using guidelines that base coverage
of applied behavior analysis therapy for autism solely on an
individual’s age, according to a motion seeking approval of a
class action settlement filed March 23 in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of Indiana.
If approved, the settlement will provide relief for at least 201
children and allow class counsel to seek fees of up to $508,345.
The estimated average payment to class members will be
$5,052, with payments ranging from $2.02 to more than $36,000,
according to court documents.
The proposed deal would end a three-year lawsuit that accused the insurance giant of violating federal mental health parity law when it limited coverage for a 13-year-old boy’s autism treatment to 20 hours per week. The settlement comes one year after a federal judge held that Anthem satisfied Indiana’s autism mandate, which requires insurers to cover treatment for autism spectrum disorder, by covering 20 weekly hours of treatment instead of the 40 hours requested. Anthem joins a growing list of companies that have settled claims over coverage of ABA therapy for autism, including United Healthcare Services Inc., T-Mobile USA Inc., and Applied Materials Inc.
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The Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS) aims to be a national model, offering a mix of vocational and residential programs for adults with autism to work and live within a universal community.
An estimated 1 in 68 children nationally – and 1 in 21 in New Jersey – are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The RCAAS aims to address a gaping need for young adults with autism: Through high school, children with autism can get tutoring, mental health services, transportation and other resources to accommodate their needs. But, once they leave public school systems, services diminish greatly, leaving adults with little support outside of their families.
The center’s research will lead to creating a model for similar centers and training educated staff to work with adults with autism.
“Our aim is to make a difference in the lives of all adults with autism by creating a best-practices training program for students across all disciplines – business, medical, art – who work with adults with an autism spectrum disorder,” says Christopher Menente, the RCAA’s Executive Director.
The center has two phases – a $20 million facility for the workday program and a pilot residential program for 20 adults with autism who will work on campus and live alongside Rutgers graduate students in an apartment-style residence.
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Genetic Research Could Lead to Earlier Autism Diagnosis
In an article published in Behavior Genetics, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negeg (BGU) say they’re closer to understanding the genetic basis of autism. The researchers found distinct characteristics in genes associated with autism that distinguish them from other brain-specific genes. They believe this will allow the identification of additional autism genes, leading to an earlier diagnosis of autism.
“We are now a step closer to understanding the genes associated with autism and understanding the biological process involved in the disease,” says Dr. idan Menashe, who along with his colleagues, Erez Tsur and Professor Michael Friger, is a member of the BGU Department of Public Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
One particularly distinct characteristic of autism genes the researchers found is their exceptional genomic length, which is longer than other brain-expressed genes of closely related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
“Our findings suggest that ASD genes have evolved under complex evolutionary forces, which have left a unique signature that can be used to identify new ASD candidate genes,” the researchers add.
To read the full article, please visit sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161006102944.htm.
Animals and Kids with Autism – The Unique
Relationship That Can Develop Between the Two
Published by Indy’s Child
By Maggie Loiselle
Helping kids with autism improve their social interaction can be a
constant challenge. Being around their peers can produce higher
physiological stress levels than those in typically developing children. Researchers have long known that interacting with animals has a positive effect on those with autism, helping to lower their stress levels and develop better social skills. Recently, a Purdue University study tracked the physiological stress in two groups of children as they read silently, read aloud to peers, played with toys, and then played with guinea pigs. The study found higher stress levels in the kids with autism – except when they played with the animals. According to the study, children with autism showed an increase in social interaction when they had a positive source to interact with, such as an animal. The study stressed that not every child responds to animals in a positive way. But, for those who do, the results are encouraging. Depending on the child and the family situation, adopting a pet can be beneficial. So can taking the child to a zoo or to a friend who owns a pet. An additional study is now underway to determine whether an animal’s species affects how children with autism respond.
Autism Could be Caused by Genetic Mutations in Over 100 Genes, According to New Research
Tech & Science News, Published by Newsweek. By Paul Mejia
Although genetics have long been thought to influence autism, researchers have struggled to concretely link individual genes with the condition, as many children who develop it have parents who did not.
Now, two landmark studies recently published in Nature reported researchers working together in over 50 laboratories across the globe discovered dozens of sets of genes (and genetic mutations) that are closely connected to- and may even be able to form the basis of new treatments for – the development of autism.
The new research claims 60 of the approximately 100 recently identified genes are within a “high-confidence” threshold – meaning that mutations in those genes are 90 percent likely to be tied to autism risk. Previously, only nine genes had been linked to autism with high confidence, according to a 2013 student published in Cell.
Researchers working on both studies attribute their success to the fact they were able to read the “letters” in DNA code at much high speeds than predecessors, thanks to advances in next generation sequencing. They said the newfound development of global initiatives is also allowing scientists worldwide to work more closely on pioneering autism-related research.
To read the entire Spring 2015 edition of The Autism Beacon click here.