Autism Awareness Month: TRICARE covers ABA therapy

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Today, autism in children has become more prevalent than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS--combined.

That's according to Autism Speaks, a national autism science and advocacy organization. The association defines autism as "a group of complex developmental brain disorders." Today, about one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism.

April is Autism Awareness Month, a month that's been celebrated by the Autism Society since the 1970s, according to their website. Autism Awareness Month highlights the growing need for concern about autism and its potential treatments.

Many different types of treatment exist for an autistic individual. However, one of the more prominent techniques that's gained notoriety recently is Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, ABA may help reduce problem behaviors associated with autism and teach vital new skills.

As part of the growing recognition of ABA therapy, TRICARE now covers this type of treatment for eligible beneficiaries. It's part of TRICARE's Autism Services Demonstration, an enhanced benefit under the ECHO program. ECHO--or Extended Care Health Option--is TRICARE's benefit for individuals with disabilities.

Here's how it works
To be eligible for ECHO, a family must first enroll into its service branch's Exceptional Family Member Program. Each service branch has a point of contact to help families enroll. After enrolling, the family needs a referral to register for ECHO, which can be obtained from a provider, or even a self-referral. After a family gets registered in ECHO, they can check their eligibility for the Autism Services Demonstration.

Children eligible for the Autism Services Demonstration must have a diagnosis that falls along the autism spectrum. In addition, they must have an active duty sponsor, be living in the United States, be 18 months or older and be enrolled in the ECHO program through their TRICARE regional contractor.

The TRICARE Autism Services Demonstration covers ABA treatment and other types of therapies that fall under the umbrella of "Educational Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders." The providers that implement these therapies must be TRICARE-authorized in order for the treatments to be covered. TriWest makes sure to take care of these providers, so they can take care of you--their patients.

Each month, families pay a "cost share" for services they receive under ECHO. This monthly cost share depends on the sponsor's pay grade. For more information on the Autism Services Demonstration, including specifics on cost shares, visit www.triwest.com/autism.