North and South Dakota vary in autism insurance coverage

Published: Feb. 6, 2019 at 6:46 PM CST
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Where people live can affect many things in life, including insurance coverage.

That is what a group of parents recently discovered when they learned South Dakota does not require insurance companies to cover a therapy for children with autism.

But it would be different if they lived in a neighboring state.

North Dakota and South Dakota governments are alike in many ways, but they are also very different.

That includes coverage of applied behavioral analysis therapy.

"I can't even express in words 'Oh no, oh no what? It's a lion? It's a lion, you're right,'" Krystal Trull said. "I can't even express in words how much it's helped her."

Trull had her doubts when her daughter Nikole started ABA therapy, but her attitude quickly changed.

"She was saying her first word within two months of being in therapy," Trull said. "She knows her abc's and sings all the time and can count and knows her animals."

But that therapy for Nikole and many others ended in January when her insurance provider stopped covering it.

South Dakota state law does not require insurance carriers like Sanford and Avera to cover ABA therapy with every plan.

But if Trull's family lived in North Dakota, that would be different. Lawmakers forced insurance companies to pay for it last year.

"It shouldn't matter that we live in South Dakota instead of North Dakota, but apparently it does, and we're trying to fix that, we're just trying to make things better for our South Dakota kids now and in the future too," she said.

Lindsey Janklow shared a video of her son R.J. on Facebook after learning their services were being cut. It quickly generated response and action.

"I think if we can keep up the momentum, hopefully this session we can see a difference, and we can make a change," Janklow said.

A change that can help Trull and many other families.

"It means understanding my daughter, it means her being able to communicate her wants and needs," she said.

House Bill 1236 would revise certain provisions regarding health insurance coverage. A hearing in the State Affairs Committee is scheduled for Feb. 20.

House Bill 1271 would remove exceptions to certain health insurance policies. It has been referred to the Health and Human Services Committee.