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National and State Legislation in Support of ABA-Based Services

 Part I:   Applied Behavior Analysis Overview
 Part II:   Scientific Support for Applied Behavior Analysis
 Part III:  Scientific, Professional, and Government Organizations' Position on ABA
 Part IV:  National and State Legislation in Support of ABA-Based Services
 Part V:   References

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Over the years multiple federal and state legislative rulings have supported the efficacy of ABA-based approaches for addressing both focused treatments for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism and comprehensive interventions. Readers are encouraged to search the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Autism Legislation Database for a comprehensive summary.

Judicial Rulings in Support of Funding and Access to ABA-Based Services

The following court proceedings found school districts financially responsible for all, or a portion of the costs associated with an in-home or center-based ABA-program. These funds were often reimbursed to families who were compelled to pay for these services out of pocket.

  • The Supreme Court of the U.S.: Florence County School District v. Carter (1993)
  • M.R. v. New York (1997)
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: T.H. v Board of Education of Palatine Community Consolidated school District 15 (1999)
  • United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit: Jaynes et al. v. Newport News Public Schools, VA (2000)
  • South Carolina Federal District Court: J.B. and M.B. v Board of Education for Horry County (2001)
  • Federal District Court of Philadelphia: Bucks County Department of Mental Health v. DeMora
  • United States Court of Appeals for the 9th District: Clark County Schools and the Nevada State Department of Education (2001)
  • United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit: Z.P. et al.(2005) v. Henrico County Public Schools, VA
  • R.T. et al.(2006) v. Henrico County Public Schools, VA
  • J.P. v. School Board of Hanover County, VA (2008)
  • Other pertinent proceedings:
  • Potter, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (2013). S. Eastern District Judge Stephen Murphy III noted that “ABA therapy is supported by numerous authorities…”. Judge Murphy also stated that “denial of insurance coverage for this therapy on the grounds that the therapy is “experimental” was arbitrary and capricious under federal law”.
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (2011). Class-action suit filed against Michigan Medicaid system for failing to make ABA-based therapies available to families.
  • District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania: P.V. et al v. School District of Philadelphia (2013). Placement or transfer of students with autism without parent approval violates IDEA.

Federal Legislation

The following laws offer support or recognition to the importance of ABA or ABA-based procedures:

  • The Education of the Handicapped Act (1970)/ Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1997/2004) requires that participating state and local educational agencies “assure that handicapped children and their parents are guaranteed procedural safeguards with respect to the provision of free appropriate public education.” Functional behavior assessment (FBA; the standard behavioral assessment procedure of ABA) was codified in IDEA (2004) which requires that an FBA inform behavior-intervention plans developed to ameliorate problem behavior in children with disabilities.

For a more comprehensive list of state and federal initiatives, readers are encouraged to review: http://www.wrightslaw.com/caselaw.htm.

Insurance coverage laws: Federal and state initiatives have led to widespread insurance reform with respect to coverage of ABA services.

  • Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act (2011): ABA treatment found to be medically necessary treatment, not educational
  • Burge v. United States of America (2012): ABA services were found to be medically necessary and TRICARE military insurance was found liable for costs associated with an ABA in-home program
  • State Legislation: Since 2007, over half of the states in the U.S. have pursued insurance reform and have been successful in passing bills which require insurers to pay for autism services, with many explicitly listing ABA services.

For a comprehensive list of insurance reform, state-by-state, see these websites:

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