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Autism Speaks Applauds Iowa State Legislature for Passage Of Autism Insurance Coverage For State Employee Health Plan

NEW YORK, NY (March 31, 2010) -- Autism Speaks yesterday joined Iowa families in applauding the members of the House for their passage of the Standing Appropriations Bill, HF 2531, which includes an amendment requiring the state health insurance plan to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis, for state employees. Passage of this amendment marks the first step in bringing about statewide reform of the private insurance market and ending insurance discrimination against all individuals with autism.

The final amendment to HF 2531 includes a $36,000 annual cap on treatments for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) up to age 21 that are enrolled in the health insurance plan for state employees. The bill now heads to the Governor’s office for signature into law.

“Autism Speaks applauds the members of the Iowa House for including this amendment in the final Standing Appropriations bill, which will extend a helping hand to the families of state employees and create a solid foundation from which to expand coverage to the greater population of families that have been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for necessary autism therapies,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “We call on Governor Culver to support this amendment, allowing Iowa to join the ranks of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on families of children with autism.”

Representatives Mark Kuhn and Christopher Rants helped push the amendment through the House. The amendment was modeled after SF 2349, which was sponsored by State Senator Daryl Beall and was passed by the Senate earlier this month. Senator Beall is the grandfather of a child with autism.

“I am delighted the legislature passed the standings bill with the autism language included,” said Senator Beall. “I wish it were more inclusive, but it's a good start. The new law will provide proof that kids with autism can really be helped in a meaningful way without breaking the bank. I view it as an opportunity to begin the process and to expand the application to more children in the future.”

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 treatment. Fifteen states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin – have passed similar autism insurance reform bills.

“Including coverage of autism in state insurance plans will now serve as the gold standard that all insurance plans, both private and public, should live up to,” said Josh Cobbs, Autism Speaks Iowa Chapter Advocacy Chair, Chairperson of the Iowa Autism Council, and father of a child with autism. “Advocates from throughout Iowa worked tirelessly and with this passage their voices were heard. This is not the end, but rather the start of getting autism treatment to all Iowans in need.”