(Tallahassee, FL - May 2, 2008) Autism Speaks today joined Florida families in applauding Governor Charlie Crist and the state's legislators for passing Senate Bill 2654, which will ultimately require insurance carriers to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies. Governor Crist is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming weeks. 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. Autism Speaks has launched a multi-state initiative to address this discrimination.
Senate Bill 2654 passed by the House in the very last minutes of the legislative session -- requires that insurance companies cover up to $36,000 a year for Applied Behavior Analysis and other therapies for children under age eighteen, with a lifetime limit for treatments of $200,000. The legislation gives insurance companies until April 2009 to negotiate a compact with the State Office of Insurance Regulation to develop autism coverage plans before the mandate takes effect.
This new Florida law represents crucial progress in the national effort to secure autism insurance coverage and end discrimination again families facing autism, said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks vice president of government relations and a member of the Florida Taskforce on Autism Spectrum Disorders. This bill mandates significant insurance benefits for the medically necessary interventions that are critical to the quality of life of children with autism. It also provides a voluntary compliance process through which the insurance industry can avoid the statutory mandate by agreeing to provide appropriate benefits for autism.
Autism Speaks intends to remain involved in the insurance compact process created by SB2654, working with Governor Crist -- a strong supporter and champion of this cause to ensure that the compact negotiations produce appropriate benefits for the deserving children of Florida.
In addition to Governor Crist, Autism Speaks hailed Senator Steven Geller, for whom the insurance section of SB2654 is named, and Representative Ari Porth and Senate President Kenneth Pruitt for their unwavering leadership in support of this landmark legislation. The organization also thanked Speaker Marco Rubio and his wife Jeanette, and Representative Andy Gardiner for their efforts.