April is host to a number of autism awareness initiatives, including National Autism Awareness Month, World Autism Month and World Autism Awareness Day. Nearly every company employs people who have children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and many have employees that are on the spectrum themselves.
Recent Data and Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in every 68 children in the United States has (ASD).1 Autism has been linked to increased medical and non-medical costs for children diagnosed with an ASD.2,3 There have also been studies that have looked at the physical and emotional strain on caregivers.4,5
Coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) based therapies continues to grow among Business Group members. More than half of large employers offer some coverage for ABA-based therapies in 2018, a significant increase over the last couple of years (see Large Employers’ 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey).
In addition, a recently released quick survey of the Business Group membership looked at how ABA-based therapies are administered; including what kind of restrictions and authorizations (if any) they have in place. The survey also found that many employers offer various programs or services to support parents or caregivers of dependents with ASD, ranging from the employee assistance program (EAP) to programs that help connect employees with local and community resources.
What Employers Can Do
Employers are continually looking at how they can better support these employees and their children. During autism awareness month, employers can take the opportunity to:
Consider available evidence when making coverage decisions for treatments for autism.
Expand access to care through navigators and health plan partnership.
Communicate the availability of autism support services to employees and spouses.
Implement workplace policies and programs that support caregivers of children with autism.
For more information on these recommendations (and the impact of ASDs on employers and employees), Business Group members can learn more from the Therapies and Supports for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Families issue brief.
Business Group Resources
For information about coverage for autism spectrum disorders, please see the following National Business Group on Health resources:
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Survey Report, March 2018.
Coverage of Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatments Among Large Employers, Numbers You Need. September 2017.
Therapies and Supports for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Families, Issue Brief. January 2017.
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1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): Data and Statistics https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html. Accessed March 26, 2018.
2. Croen LA, Najjar DV, Ray GT, Lotspeich L, Bernal P. A comparison of health care utilization and costs of children with and without autism spectrum disorders in a large group-model health plan. Pediatrics. 2006;118(4):e1203-e1211.
3. Lavelle TA, et al. Economic burden of childhood autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2014;133(3):e520-e529.
4. Burton WN, et al. Caregiving for ill dependents and its association with employee health risks and productivity. J Occup Environ Med. 2004;46(10):1048-1056.
5. Hamlyn-Wright S, Draghi-Lorenz R, Ellis J. Locus of control fails to mediate between stress and anxiety and depression in parents of children with a developmental disorder. Autism. 2007;11(6):489-501.