NEW YORK, NY (December 13, 2008) -- Autism Speaks today joined Illinois families and other autism advocacy organizations in applauding the state's legislators for enacting Senate Bill 934, which contains provisions to require insurance carriers to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies. In many states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services.
The new Illinois law requires insurers to cover up to $36,000 a year for treatments and therapies, including Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for children until age twenty-one. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is recognized as an effective, evidence-based treatment for children with autism. The law specifies that there cannot be any limit put on the number of visits to an autism service provider and that the maximum per year benefit will be adjusted annually for inflation.
“With the enactment of this legislation, Illinois joins the ranks of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on families of children with autism,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice president for Government Relations. “Autism insurance reform has gained significant national momentum. Legislatures across the country are introducing and passing bills that put an end to the discriminatory practices by insurance companies against children with an autism diagnosis.”
The passage of this legislation was the result of a grassroots advocacy effort led by hundreds of committed families with the support of local and national advocacy organizations. The bill was conceived by parent advocate Pete DiCianni on behalf of his daughter, Brianna. “It brings tears to my eyes that we have finally prevailed and that all Illinois children with autism will have access to diagnosis, treatment and therapy,” said DiCianni.
“For too long, Illinois families have been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for therapies their children needed,” said Lee Jorwic, father of a child with autism and Autism Speaks' Illinois Chapter Advocacy Chair. “I have been working with Pete DiCianni, Laura Cellini, Christopher Kennedy, and the entire autism community to peck away at the legislators in Springfield and get this legislation finally passed. Thanks to all the Autism Speaks families who responded to our calls for action that helped bring about this historic day.”
"I am very grateful for the hard work and dedication of our sponsors in the legislature and their tenacity, especially Senator James DeLeo, who sponsored five bills this session for insurance coverage for autism. We truly have a contingent of dedicated individuals within our legislature,” said Laura Cellini, parent and a lead advocate for this effort. “This was truly a grassroots effort from our community; parents spoke out for their children and the Illinois General Assembly and Governor acted to help make a difference for thousands of children with autism and their families."
Senate Bill 934 was sponsored by Senator James A. DeLeo in the Senate and Representative Karen May in the Illinois House.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in theUnited States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org