Parents of children with autism pushing lawmakers to expand insurance coverage

MINOT, N.D. - For Shannon Schmidt and her husband, providing for their kids has been no easy task.

The Schmidts have three children and a fourth on the way. Their five-year-old son Caleb is one of their many blessings. He's also part of the one in every 68 children who find themselves on the autism spectrum.

But North Dakota is one of only five states that does not have full insurance coverage for what's known as 'applied behavior analysis' or ABA, which helps children with autism learn how to perform everyday functions.

Schmidt said without insurance coverage, parents of children of with autism are forced to make tough decisions.

“You're given your diagnosis, and then you're given two options: either you make huge changes in your personal life to try to afford any type of treatment out-of-pocket or you leave the state,” she said.

House Bill 1434 would implement this insurance in the state. Detractors argue it would costs the state far too much, but supporters say projections are based off of numbers from other states years ago, and they don't translate to North Dakota in 2017.

“All of the data shows, from the other states who have this in place, we're looking at a cost of less than a postage stamp per month, per member on their insurance plan,” she said.

Whether House Bill 1434 passes or not, Schmidt is continuing her push, working with the Severson Entrepreneurship Academy at Minot State to put together Caleb's Clubhouse, a non-profit that will bring developmental therapy to children with and without autism. She goes back to that one in 68 number.

“Just because you don't have that personal connection now doesn't say you're not going to tomorrow, or a year down the road, or five years down the road, because it's bound to happen,” she said.

House Bill 1434 has yet to be scheduled to go before the house this session.

There will be a fiscal hearing in the Harvest Room of the capitol Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m.