All infants and toddlers would receive the recommended autism screenings to identify developmental issues and disabilities, under legislation proposed by Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, and Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle.

Currently, all private insurance plans in Washington cover screenings for autism and other developmental disabilities for infants and toddlers, as these screenings are part of the nationally recognized standard of well child care. By comparison, the most vulnerable children in the state, who receive health care through the Apple Health for Kids program, only receive one of the recommended five infant screenings. This legislative proposal would ensure all children in Washington receive the full screenings to identify developmental issues and help them receive the care they need.

While providing the screenings would carry an upfront cost, it is expected to save the state money in the long term, as studies show that 30 percent of children whose developmental issues are identified and treated early do not need special education services by age 3.

“These screenings are a proven medical best practice that we know will make a huge difference in the lives of these children,” said Dr. Lelach Rave, a trustee of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We know we can do a better job addressing development disabilities in children the sooner we identify them, and these screenings are a crucial tool. We want to ensure that every child has the chance to receive this care, including those on Apple Health for Kids and Medicaid.”

“These are some of the most vulnerable children in the state, and they deserve the same chance at a successful life as any other child,” said Riccelli, the House sponsor of the legislation. “Families on Medicaid or Apple Health already have a tougher time than most, and it doesn’t make things any easier when their children could be growing up with a developmental disability without treatment because no screening ever caught the issue. This is a basic guarantee we should make so that every child can get a fair start.”

“Making sure that every infant gets their life off on the right track pays off down the road,” said Frockt, the Senate sponsor of the legislation. “If we can make sure all children get the help they need in the first few years of their life, they’ll do much better and require less support as they go into school and onto the rest of their lives. This is a chance to make an investment now in these children and it will be easier for them to live successful lives in the future.”