Autism advocates celebrated what they thought was a major victory when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010: They expected the law to require all insurance companies to cover pricey, potentially lifelong treatments for those with the incurable condition.
But instead of creating a national standard for autism coverage, the administration bowed to political pressure from states and insurers and left it to states to define, within certain parameters, the "essential benefits" that insurance companies must provide.
Coverage requirements for autism treatments, such as behavioral counseling and speech and occupational therapy, already vary from state to state. Far from smoothing out those differences, critics say the ACA will add a new layer of complexity.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it will consider setting a national standard in 2016. Until then, states will decide what autism treatments insurance companies must cover.