BARGAINING: Guild, AP discuss autism coverage, temp employees, coverage

The News Media Guild on Thursday urged The Associated Press to offer health insurance coverage for a commonly prescribed therapy for children with autism.

AP health insurance currently doesn’t cover applied behavioral analysis, which is an intensive and effective therapy in some cases of autism. The therapy itself is costly so many people cannot afford the treatment without insurance or some other assistance.

AP’s health insurance plan is self-funded, meaning the company decides what’s covered and what isn’t. The Guild is urging AP to add the ABA coverage to its health insurance plans because it can be done without a significant increase in premiums, according to research from Autism Speaks.

“This is a benefit that only a small number of our members need, but adding the coverage could be life-changing for their children and families,” News Media Guild President Jill Bleed said.

Mike Wasmer, the director of state government affairs for Autism Speaks, told the AP that about 45 percent of companies with more than 500 employees currently provide ABA coverage. The federal government also provides ABA coverage to its workers, as do 48 states to their public employees.

AP’s negotiating team said it was willing to explore the issue.

In other business, both sides reached a tentative agreement on the technology unit coverage article. The company also introduced changes to the temporary employees article, saying that some grant-funded positions should be longer than the nine-month limit for temporaries currently permitted in the contract. The Guild said it was open to a longer period for the grant-funded jobs, which are part of the bargaining unit.

Bargaining will resume Jan. 8.

Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Ed Morsett of Denver and administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were: Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Ellen Fegan, vice president for internal audit; Sue Gilkey, global director of employee benefits; Alison Quan, director of human resources, technology and business operations; David Scott, deputy managing editor; and Steve Macri, AP’s attorney.