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State Autism Profiles: Minnesota

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In 2000, 2,793 or 2.54% of children ages 3-21 who received special education services in Minnesota have autism. In 2014-2015, 16,984 or 13.5% of children with disabilities ages 3-21 who received special education services have autism.

Table 1-1: IDEA Part B - Children with Autism in Minnesota for 1999-2000 and 2014-2015
(Child Count by Age Group)

Age 3-5



Age 6-21



Age 3-21



Source: Reported by the State of Minnesota in accordance with Section 618 of IDEA to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs

Table 1-2: IDEA Part B - Children with Disabilities in Minnesota for 1999-2000 and 2014-2015
(Child Count by Age Group)

Age 3-5



Age 6-11



Age 12-17



Age 18-21



Age 6-21



Age 3-21



Source: Reported by the State of Minnesota in accordance with Section 618 of IDEA to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs


Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force
The Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force was charged by the Minnesota Legislature in 2011 to develop an autism spectrum disorder statewide strategic plan that focuses on improving awareness, early diagnosis, and intervention and on ensuring delivery of treatment and services for individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, including the coordination and accessibility of cost-effective treatments and services throughout the individual's lifetime.
Minnesota Laws 2011, 1st Special Session, Chp. 9, Art. 6, Sec. 95


On May 23, 2013, Minnesota became the 33rd state to pass autism insurance legislation. Passed through the Governor’s budget bill, H.F. 1233, the law requires insurers to provide coverage for diagnosis, treatment and evaluation of people with autism spectrum disorder. Originally sponsored by Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester), the measure applies to state-regulated large group health plans which will be required to cover speech, occupational, physical and behavioral therapy, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), up to age 18. State employees will be added no later than 2016. The small employee market and exchange products are to be studied for implementation by 2016. Covered services include comprehensive, multi-disciplinary diagnostic assessment, ongoing progress evaluation, early intensive intervention, such as ABA, neuro-developmental and behavioral health treatments, and speech, language, occupational and physical therapy.

H.B. 3372 and S.B. 2751 were introduced in 2016, which amend the required services insurers must cover to include early intensive developmental and behavioral intervention. This includes "Individual treatment plan" or "ITP" is the person-centered, individualized written plan of care that integrates and coordinates child and family information. Referred to the Health and Human Services Reform committee, as of June 6, 2016 no further action has been taken on either bill.

In 2015, legislation was introduced to expand the autism insurance coverage beyond large group health plans. S.F. 605, and its companion bill H.F. 863, would delete the large group limitation to allow coverage on any state regulated plan. The legislation was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee, respectively. No further action was taken.

Minnesota also has a state mental health parity law. Under the law, group health insurance policies that provide coverage for mental conditions treated in a hospital shall also provide coverage for treatment performed while the enrollee is not in a hospital. At least 80 percent of the costs incurred for the first 10-hours of treatment performed within a year are covered for the diagnosis and treatment of mental conditions, and at least 75 percent of the costs are covered for additional treatment provided under the care of a licensed physician, mental health clinic, or mental health professional with prior authorization. (MN Stat. §62A.152) Minnesota also requires health insurance policies to provide benefits for the treatment of children with emotional disabilities, including children with developmental disabilities, in a residential facility. (MN Stat. §62A.151)


The benchmark plan for individual and small group policies does not offer autism services or ABA as part of the Essential Health Benefits package. Minnesota is running its own exchange.
(HealthPartners, Inc. Small Group Product; 500 25 Open Access)

Legislation was introduced in 2015 to include autism services within the coverage of Minnesota’s Essential Health Benefit package. S.F. 392, and its companion bill H.F. 836, were introduced and referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee and to the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, respectively. No further action was taken.

House Bills 3289 and 3290, along with Senate File 2893 were introduced in March 2016, which add rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, including services for autism spectrum disorder treatment specified pursuant to section 62A.3094 and additional essential health benefits included in the EHB-benchmark plan, as defined under the Affordable Care Act to the essential benefits definition. As of June 6, 2016, no further action has been taken.


Minnesota Administrative Rules defines autism spectrum disorders as a pervasive developmental disorder that adversely impacts the student, requiring a need for special education. In order to be eligible for special education, a student with autism must be evaluated. The evaluation team assesses student and identifies impairment in social interaction, impairment in communication, and repetitive behaviors and activities. A clinical or medical diagnosis of autism is not required in order for the student to receive special education provided that the student meets eligibility criteria. (MN Rule Chapter 3525.1325)

Behavior Analyst Licensing
In 2015, S.F. 2180 and its companion bill H.F. 2336 were introduced to establish licensing requirements for behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts. The legislation would have created a licensing board and requirements and an advisory council. The legislation was referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee and the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, respectively. No further action was taken.


Minnesota Autism Project and Network
The Minnesota Department of Education, Special Education provides training and technical assistance, resources, and information on autism spectrum disorders to educators and school districts through the Minnesota Autism Project and Network. Additionally, the MN Autism Project coordinates Regional Low Incidence Projects and an interagency collaboration, called MN First Signs Project, to promote earlier screening for autism spectrum disorders.

Other Legislation
H.F. 278 was introduced in the 2011 session, requiring the Commissioner of Health to solicit proposals for a medical home to provide evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment services for Somali immigrants with autism spectrum disorder. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services Reform. No further action was taken.

Proposed in the 2011 session, H.B. 167 and S.B. 99 would do the following: require an autism research and report by the Commissioner of Health; require the Department of Human Services to train autism service providers; and require autism service option notifications for medical assistance and MinnesotaCare recipients. No further action has been taken.

In the 2016 session S.F. 3264 was introduced, which allows a to-be-decided sum of money to be appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of public safety to select and retain a person or entity to train law enforcement, firefighters, and EMTs to better respond to emergency encounters and crisis situations with individuals with autism spectrum disorder or to train other individuals or entities to conduct this training. The measure was referred to the Senate Finance Committee to be considered for inclusion in the Judiciary Finance Omnibus Bill.


In 2001, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota settled its lawsuit with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. Under this settlement, the insurance carrier must cover mental health costs, as well as improve coverage for eating disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and mental health problems. The landmark 2001 court settlement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota expired in late 2011.


The Minnesota Legislature meets in Regular Session biennially for no more than 120 days. The 2016 session convened on March 8, 2016 and adjourned on May 23, 2016. The 2017 session is expected to convene on March 22, 2017.

Sponsors of Autism Legislation

  • Sen. David H. Senjem (R-Rochester) District 29
  • Sen. Carla J. Nelson (R-Rochester) District 26
  • Sen. Charles W. Wiger (D-Maplewood) District 43
  • Sen. Katie Sieben (D-Cottage Grove) District 54
  • Sen. Greg D. Clausen (D-Apple Valley) District 57
  • Rep. Kim Norton (D-Rochester) District 25B
  • Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Stillwater) District 39B
  • Rep. Tara Mack (R-Apple Valley) District 57A
  • Rep. Karen Clark (D-Minneapolis) District 62A

Prepared by Easterseals, Inc.; November 2016.

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