Autism and service claim approvals in Arizona

Kristina Lopez, ASU School of Social Work

"The data include AHCCCS claims data for 2018 and initial enrollment in AHCCCS for consumers age 18 and under, only for those who have autism listed as their primary diagnosis, this is 42,782 kids."

- Kristina Lopez, KER fellow 2020 


Research at the national level has shown that children belonging to racial or ethnic minorities who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) receive lower quality care and are diagnosed later than their white counterparts. Yet despite the increasing number of children diagnosed with ASD in Arizona, no studies have yet explored whether or not a disparity in access to services exists at the state level.

Research questions

  • Are there existing disparities by race/ethnicity in Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) expenditures among children with autism within Maricopa County?

  • Which racial/ethnic groups receive less/more Medicaid expenditures?

Methods and findings

Lopez analyzed data from AHCCCS to help us better understand existing disparities and develop solutions for them. She is particularly interested in working to build community-level programs to support LatinX families in navigating AHCCCS to obtain better care and services.


  • Center for Health Information and Research (CHiR)


Lopez wrote a white paper for the Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Committee that is part of AHCCCS, the Office of the Arizona Governor Policy Advisor for Health and Human Services, and the Department of Developmental Disabilities agencies. She also created social media content, developed a DATOS report, submitted an abstract to the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Annual Conference and submitted a manuscript to a journal.

Kristina Lopez

A Portrait of Kristina Lopez

Assistant Professor
ASU Watts College of Public Service & Community Solutions

Academic Fellow, 2020

In her research, Kristina Lopez explores disparities in early diagnosis and subsequent intervention services among underserved children and families including low-income, limited-education and racial/ethnic minorities with a specialization in Latino children with autism. She focuses on the impact of developmental disabilities and complex health needs among children on family systems across racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic levels. Her research is grounded in a multidisciplinary framework in which she incorporates developmental psychology, social work and public health disciplines to investigate disparities, ecological and socio-cultural perspectives of family support, developmental disabilities and early intervention.