Debate over autism coverage continues as mom sues providers for discrimination

Categories: Health Care, Law

After the City Pages story ran, Reid switched to Blue Cross Blue Shield, which was supposed to cover the therapy. But after just one month on the new plan, the company denied coverage for Max's IEIBT. Reid appealed and got it reinstated, but a few months letter, received a letter that BCBS was altering its policy altogether, and no longer paying for any IEIBT. This time, there was no way to dispute the changes.

So Reid is suing both providers and the state Department of Commerce. She alleges violations of Minnesota's mental health parity law, which is supposed to ensure equal access to both mental and physical health services, as well as two state insurance statutes, the Human Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and others.

Though Max no longer receives as much therapy, Reid believes that pressing her case is the right thing to do for others in the same situation.

"Now 1 in 88 kids are getting diagnosed as autistic," she says. "That's a huge portion of our population. With the right therapy, and this isn't a long shot, these kids can have the same IQs as the rest of us. But that's not going to happen if we don't give them the right therapy.

"They have the right to live those lives," she continued.

Reid admits that under Minnesota law, her case isn't a strong one. Not only is there little precedent -- a high-profile case about IEIBT last year focused just on inconsistent coverage for poorer families -- but our state's mental health parity act is, in Reid's view, weakly worded.

"Our act's language is so dense that it's harder to make inroads," Reid says. After reading through the statute, she asked, "Does that tell the common person that you have a right to mental health care?"

Reid's a practicing family attorney, and represented herself to file her complaint. But she's unfamiliar with the intricacies of health care law, and so is seeking an outside firm to take her case.

She also knows that she's addressing big business, and worries about the other side's lawyers burying her in paperwork. If she doesn't find someone else to help with her suit, Reid says, "They'll end me."

Here's her full complaint:

Related coverage:
- Mario Cortolezzis rips off autism charity he founded for his son
- The Minnesota Disease: Autism in the Somali community

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