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Originally published March 29, 2012 at 8:29 PM | Page modified March 29, 2012 at 8:34 PM

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Court rules against insurers in case involving Renton teen with autism

Premera Blue Cross must cover therapy for an autistic boy from Renton while a court case about his benefits continues, a King County Superior Court ruled this week.

Seattle Times health reporter

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Two Seattle lawyers have been quietly pushing to force insurers to cover therapy for autistic children.

Their latest success, against Premera Blue Cross and its subsidiary, LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, involves "A.G.," a 13-year-old Renton boy with autism.

This week, King County Superior Court Judge Michael Trickey ruled that the insurer's blanket exclusion for treatments of "developmental delay or neurodevelopmental disabilities" violates public policy as spelled out in Washington's Mental Health Parity Act.

The ruling is a preliminary injunction, applying only to A.G.'s case while the case is being litigated, Trickey said.

Lawyers for the boy and his parents have asked that the case be certified as a class-action lawsuit.

Premera officials were not available for comment Thursday.

Ele Hamburger and Richard E. Spoonemore of Sirianni Youtz Spoonemore have filed seven class-action lawsuits in state and federal courts against insurers, including Group Health Cooperative, Regence BlueShield and Molina Healthcare, and state programs such as Medicaid and the Uniform Medical Plan, which provides health coverage to public employees.

The lawsuits seek coverage for Applied Behavioral Assessment (ABA), a popular therapy for children with autism-spectrum disorder, as well as other behavioral and neurodevelopmental therapies, such as speech and physical therapy. Most of the lawsuits are still under way.

"We are looking to fundamentally alter the way health insurers in Washington cover therapy for autism" and other developmental disabilities, Spoonemore said.

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @costrom.

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