Larson pushes bill to expand health services for military families with autistic children.

Rep. John Larson introduced legislation Wednesday that would increase health care services for military families with autistic children.

Right now, there is a spending cap on behavioral health services for autistic children covered by TRICARE, the military health insurance program. And there’s no coverage for the dependents of military retirees.

Karen Driscoll, the wife of a Marine and mother of an autistic boy, said the current limits are potentially devastating for military families like hers.

“After nearly 28 years of service and two combat tours, if my husband were to retire, this treatment program would terminate,” she said of her son’s access to behavioral health therapy.

She and Rachel Kenyon, the wife of a sergeant major in the Connecticut Army National Guard and mother of a 4-year-old autistic girl, were among those who lobbied Larson, D-1st District, to introduce the bill. The two mothers participated in a media call with Larson touting the bill Wednesday.

Larson’s proposal, co-sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, would lift the spending cap and expand coverage to retiree dependents. The cap is set at $36,000 a year, which Driscoll said covers about 11 hours of therapy a week under TRICARE’s billing rates. That’s less than half what’s medically recommended for a newly diagnosed 2-year-old with autism, she said.

“So many of service members are facing thousands of dollars out of pocket or … foregoing treatment,” Driscoll added.

Larson and Jones said they would push hard for passage of the bill, but its fate remains unclear, particularly since it would add to the military’s health care costs at a time of budget belt-tightening in Washington.