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Sunday, Sep 08 2013 11:01 PM

HITS & MISSES: Autism therapy coverage to stay in plans

By The Bakersfield Californian

HIT: Private insurance health plans will be compelled to cover behavioral health treatment for autism under a bill approved unanimously Friday by the California Senate. Senate Bill 126, authored by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, extends the sunset of a previous version of the law. It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown.

SB 126 builds on SB 946, a 2011 law that required health care service plans and health insurers to provide treatment coverage for autism. Such coverage was typically excluded from most health plans prior to 2012. The bill extends the sunset date to January 2017.

Since the state's California's autism insurance mandate was introduced in July 2012, the Department of Insurance estimates that more than 12,500 Californians have benefitted from early autism treatment. The state agency puts the estimated taxpayer savings at $200 million.

"Many families still struggle to locate and afford these needed services for their loved ones," Steinberg said in a statement that promised continued attention to the issue.

MISS: Glowin' in the boys' room

According to a new federal report, one out of 10 U.S. high school students and 100 middle-school students used e-cigarettes in 2012, twice the number of users in 2011.

While electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they do contain liquid nicotine and cancer-causing nitrosamines. In fact, they can contain just as much, if not more, nicotine as regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes also produce second-hand vapor that may irritate the eyes, noses and throats of some. It can also harm people's breathing, making them feel nauseous. There's no age requirement for the purchase of e-cigarettes, so consumers can become addicted to nicotine at any age -- and traditional cigarettes are likelier to come along later.

MISS: Too many disabled placards

As more and more drivers display disabled placards, those blue signs so often seen hanging from rear-view mirrors and attached to license plates, city officials across the country are placing tighter restrictions on the privileges they afford -- and it's adversely affecting the disabled.

The number of drivers with disabled placards has grown out of hand in some areas. The most reasonable solution, some cities have found, has been to force disabled drivers to feed the meter like everyone else. That has been the case in Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., and Arlington County, Va. And come next year, Illinois will supply free-metered parking to only its most severely disabled residents.

HIT: 'Breaking Bad' breaking addictions

"Breaking Bad," the hit show about a high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine producer, is breaking good in an Albuquerque mental health clinic. Clinic officials hope to use the show to help methamphetamine addicts end their addiction: Sage Neuroscience Center, based in the city where the series takes place, is giving away two scholarships to addicts who can't afford to pay their own way at the rehab center.

The "Breaking Addiction" program will award two spots in this fall's Intensive Outpatient Program in honor of the show's wrap-up.

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