Tricare Expands Autism Benefits for Affected Military Children

April 12, 2021

Changes to Occur Over the Next 9 Months

Since 2014, dependent military children that hold an autism diagnosis have received services through Tricare’s Autism Care Demonstration program. After the program recently came under scrutiny for an over reliance upon Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) to treat autism, the Defense Health Agency recently announced that the Autism Care Demonstration Program will be replaced by the new Tricare Comprehensive Autism Care program. This transition will take place over the next nine months and will affect the approximately 16,000 children enrolled in the current Tricare demonstration program. The main goal of the new Comprehensive Autism Care program is to expand and combine all available autism services into a single comprehensive plan. To help achieve this goal, Tricare is implementing a fairly large change. They will now assign “care coordinators” to families whose purpose is to steer them towards available resources and services. These care coordinators will have similar responsibilities as  “family navigators,” who were previously featured in a recent SafeMinds Shares. Another new change is that Tricare will no longer require periodic re-diagnosis to continue to receive autism care. ABA services, including telehealth services for ABA parental training even beyond the pandemic, will still be covered under the new comprehensive care program. However, new requirements have been added. More frequent outcome measures, assessments and data collection will be required. Families will still need a referral and a pre-authorization from a Tricare authorized provider in order to receive services. While many of these changes seem positive, many military special needs families are concerned about the new additional requirements this program includes.

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