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Boeing's Health Plan Sued Over Autism Therapy

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Megacorporation Boeing, Inc. is the target of a Washington State class action lawsuit that contends the company excludes treatment for autism in its employee and family benefits plan. The plaintiffs in the suit are two unidentified children of Boeing employees along with their parents. Boeing’s Master Welfare Plan provides health benefits for its workers and their dependents. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are seeking to “end Boeing’s discriminatory practice of excluding all coverage under the Plan for treatment of Applied Behavior Analysis therapy to treat Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

Applied Behavior Analysis is an intensive teaching program utilized for autistic children that incorporates positive rewards to reinforce good behavior. It is based on behavioral science studies that illustrate positive learned behavior can be acquired and enforced through repetitive recompenses given to the child. The child is given a stimulus, and is rewarded with praise or an edible, for example. Incorrect or negative responses are ignored or neutrally corrected. The use of Applied Behavior Analysis is widely considered to help children and teens on the autism spectrum learn how foster basic skills to live happier and more productive lives.

Yet, Boeing excludes all Applied Behavior Analysis for autism treatment, even when it is deemed medically necessary. Boeing does not explicitly exclude the treatment in the Master Welfare Plan document. Instead, the company has its claims administrators exclude the coverage through internal policies and restricted provider networks. Additionally, class members assert that Boeing will not contract with any providers that allow coverage for Applied Behavior Analysis.

The class members allege Boeing’s actions are a violation of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008. The purpose of the Act was to end discrimination in the provision of coverage for mental health treatment. Since Boeing’s Master Welfare Plan does provide some mental health service coverage, the coverage must be “at parity” with other benefits, such as medical and surgical ones.

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