State Insurance Mandates and the Workforce for Children With Autism

Pediatrics. 2020 Oct;146(4):e20200836. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-0836. Epub 2020 Sep 8.


Background: State mandates have required insurance companies to provide coverage for autism-related child health care services; however, it has not been determined if insurance mandates have improved the supply of child health care providers. We investigate the effect of state insurance mandates on the supply of child psychiatrists, pediatricians, and board-certified behavioral analysts (BCBAs).

Methods: We used data from the National Conference of State Legislatures and Health Resources and Services Administration's Area Health Resource Files to examine child psychiatrists, pediatricians, and BCBAs in all 50 states from 2003 to 2017. Fixed-effects regression models compared change in workforce density before versus one year after mandate implementation and the effect of mandate generosity across 44 US states implementing mandates between 2003 and 2017.

Results: From 2003 to 2017, child psychiatrists increased from 7.40 to 10.03 per 100 000 children, pediatricians from 62.35 to 68.86, and BCBAs from 1.34 to 29.88. Mandate introduction was associated with an additional increase of 0.77 BCBAs per 100 000 children (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.18 to 1.42) one year after mandate enactment. Mandate introduction was also associated with a more modest increase among child psychiatrists (95% CI: 0.10 to 0.91) and was not associated with the prevalence of pediatricians (95% CI: -0.76 to 1.13). We also found evidence that more generous mandate benefits were associated with larger effects on workforce supply.

Conclusions: State insurance mandates were associated with an ∼16% increase in BCBAs from 2003 to 2017, but the association with child psychiatrists was smaller and nonsignificant among pediatricians. In these findings, it is suggested that policies are needed that specifically address workforce constraints in the provision of services for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child Psychiatry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Pediatricians / supply & distribution*
  • Psychology, Child / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • Workforce / statistics & numerical data