NEW YORK, NY (MARCH 15, 2011) Autism Speaks, the nations largest autism science and advocacy organization, today called on all members of the New York State legislature to support new legislation (S4005 and A6305) that would help tens of thousands of New York families by requiring insurance companies to end discriminatory practices and provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. A similar bill passed unanimously in both the Senate and Assembly last year. Twenty-four states including every state bordering New York have already enacted similar autism insurance reform measures during the past three years.
The legislation -- sponsored by Senator Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (Merrick), and Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle (Irondequoit) with 45 Senate co-sponsors and 31 Assembly co-sponsors would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. In addition to providing coverage for physical health problems that frequently occur with autism, such as sleep abnormalities, seizures and gastrointestinal problems, the bill would cover other treatments, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral health treatments (including Applied Behavior Analysis) for individuals of any age who are affected by autism.
There are tens of thousands of New York families families with otherwise perfectly good health insurance who are paying huge amounts out-of-pocket to provide their loved ones with the therapies they need and deserve, said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks Executive Vice President of Programs and Services. The New York legislation, like similar laws in other states, will protect children with autism and greatly lessen the financial burden on families.
This legislation has widespread support from across the New York autism community, added Bell. It provides coverage for treatments for individuals with autism throughout their lifespan. Furthermore, since many national and regional companies are headquartered in New York, this legislation could extend to thousands of individuals across the country, thereby having a major impact on the national autism community. Its time to get this bill passed and enacted.
Senator Fuschillo said, "No family should have to choose between forgoing important health treatments or going broke to get care for their loved one. However, many families with a loved one who has autism must do just that because their health insurance company refuses to cover autism treatment costs. This legislation would put an end to that by ensuring that families have the costs of screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders covered by insurance."
This bill builds upon the best aspects of our previous legislation and moves us even further down the road toward insurance parity for families affected by autism, a group that is growing rapidly and whose needs have often been poorly served, said Assemblyman Morelle, chairman of the Assemblys Standing Committee on Insurance. Im proud to be a partner in this critical effort to improve health care in New York, and grateful to Autism Speaks for its tireless advocacy and invaluable support.
In many states, health insurance policies explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies, placing a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services.
To learn more about Autism Votes, an initiative of Autism Speaks focused on federal and state legislative advocacy, please visit www.autismvotes.org.