Families of children with autism deliver petition with 10K signatures to Anthem

With an eight-year-old superhero out front, a group of Indiana families hit the pavement to deliver a message 10,000 strong to insurance giant Anthem.
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A group of advocates are flooding Indiana's largest insurance company with a petition calling for more autism therapy for children.

With an eight-year-old superhero out front, a group of Indiana families hit the pavement to deliver a message 10,000 strong to insurance giant Anthem.

"Our fight is for ABA therapy. We are delivering a petition to Anthem that has over 10,000 signatures on it," said Angie Josephson.

The signatures call for Anthem to stop cutting Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy for children with autism.

"I'm so disgusted. ABA is a lifeline for our family," said Lisa Hensley, who carried the petitions along side her son Kaiden, who was dressed in the superhero suit.

13 Investigates first uncovered the practice over a year ago.  Now parents nationwide are receiving letters warning of drastic reductions for ABA therapy. 

In many cases, Anthem says full-time coverage is not medically necessary.

"We have documentation.  He has traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy and they've denied everything,"  Hensley told 13 Investigates.  She says she cries herself to sleep at night because Kaiden can't get help until possibly September.

Read more 13 Investigates stories here.

"They didn't even give us a warning of saying 'Hey, you're going to get 15 hours' versus the 40 or 50 hours we were getting.  Everything's gone now," Hensley explained.

Angie Josephson understands the frustration. Therapy was reduced by 50 percent for her 11-year-old daughter.

"ABA therapy has been life-changing for my daughter, so for them to make that cut at such a critical time in her life is very upsetting," added Josephson.

The group says Anthem's policy forces children with profound autism into public schools ill-equipped to handle extensive special needs.

"I want Anthem to realize that this is like taking a lifeline.  Seriously, would you take a cancer patient's chemotherapy away?  Because this is his therapy," said Hensley.

An Anthem spokesman provided the following statement:

"Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield appreciates the efforts of those who collected signatures for the petition we received today.  We welcome opportunities to engage in constructive discussions with the various stakeholders to address the role of health insurers in covering care for autism patients. We are committed to providing access to appropriate medical services for Hoosiers with autism so that they can live a healthy, happy, and productive life.

Anthem recognizes that no two autism cases are alike. A therapy that works for one individual may not be effective for another. We consider each member's unique treatment plan, and regularly reach out to treating physicians and psychologists in a collaborative approach.

Our goal is for individuals to receive access to care at the appropriate time and in the appropriate setting."

  Read more 13 Investigates stories here.