Families striving to raise autistic children would get help under a human services budget approved in the Republican-controlled Iowa House this week.
But Democrats say private insurers should cover the treatment to take the burden off taxpayers.
Under the bill, more families will have access to a revolving fund to pay for intensive treatment.
“To be able to have early intervention will offer an opportunity to reach a state of normalcy,” said Rep. David Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant).
The bill would make more families eligible for state aid, including kids up to the age of 14.
The one-on-one treatment costs as much as $36,000 a year.
The GOP majority in the House turned down a Democratic amendment to require private insurers to cover autism therapy.
“Covering this is so valuable to young people across the state,” said Sen. Amanda Ragan (D-Mason City).
Ragan led preliminary passage of the human services budget in the Senate, which includes the insurance mandate.
Heaton says beyond paying for the expensive therapy, access is a problem. He says too few professionals are trained to provide what’s known as applied behavior analysis.
“There’s only one school in the state that offers this master's program and that's Briar Cliff College,” Heaton said. “We're trying to encourage the University of Iowa, the Regents, to insert this program in their psychology department.”