The Boeing Company resorted to behind-the-scenes moves to structure its health insurance plan for its employees so that it would not cover a popular behavior therapy for children with autism, a proposed class action alleges.
At issue is medical insurance coverage of applied behavior analysis, or ABA, which is a type of behavior adaptation therapy that is hailed by some parents and doctors as useful in managing children with autism spectrum disorders. Akin to behavior modification, ABA uses rewards and positive reinforcement to encourage social skills and other learning in children with the conditions.
In the suit, four unnamed parents of two young boys with the disorders allege Boeing has violated federal law by excluding all ABA therapy from coverage. Read the complaint here.
The complaint was filed April 17 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington by Seattle attorneys Eleanor Hamburger and Richard Spoonemore, who have won a series of similar actions against other Washington state insurers over ABA claim denials.
In the Boeing case, the plaintiffs allege the aerospace company does not expressly exclude the treatment but instead “imposes an internal, hidden exclusion of ABA therapy” by shifting it to come under the mental health plan rather than the medical one. Then, the complaint alleges, Boeing directed Value Options, Boeing’s mental health plan administrator, to exclude from its network of providers all those that offer ABA therapy.
The complaint accuses Boeing of violating its fiduciary duties under the Employment Retirement Security of Act of 1974 and of the federal Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
Lisa Hoffman contributes to law.com.