Autism Speaks Applauds New York State Legislature for Unanimous Approval of Autism Insurance Reform Bills

 
NEW YORK, NY (June 17, 2011) – Autism Speaks joined New York families today in applauding the members of the New York Legislature for their unanimous passage of a bill which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of critical autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA). The legislation now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk to be enacted into law.

Sponsored in the New York Assembly by Assemblyman Joseph Morelle (D-Monroe)   and in the Senate by Sen. Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Nassau,) the bill (A.6305A/S.4005A) includes coverage of behavioral health treatments, such as ABA therapy. A fiscal analysis conducted for Autism Speaks found the legislation would save New York state taxpayers $13 million over six years by reducing costs for Medicaid, early intervention services, special education and the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.

“Autism Speaks applauds the members of the New York Legislature for passing (A.6305A/S.4005A), which will extend a helping hand to 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 are grateful for the leadership of Assemblyman Morelle and Senator Fuschillo on this issue and now call on Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law, allowing New York to join the ranks of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on families of children with autism.”

New York is currently one of 24 states that do not require private insurance companies to cover even essential autism treatments and services. As a result, families paying thousands of dollars a year for health insurance receive no benefits in return for autism-related expenses, forcing them to pay as much as they can out-of-pocket for services that can cost upwards of $50,000 per year. In the process, many risk their homes and the educations of their unaffected children – essentially mortgaging their entire futures.

“This is a giant step forward towards helping families with autism get the care they need,” said Senator Fuschillo. “Many of these families are literally going broke paying for this care because their insurance companies refuse to provide coverage. It’s long past time to give these families access to treatment coverage just like any other condition, and ensure that they are not denied services solely because of an autism diagnosis. That’s exactly what this legislation would do.”

Assemblyman Morelle said, ““The overwhelming support for this bill in both houses of the Legislature reflects the clear and growing awareness that autism is an increasingly common condition, affecting more families than ever before. The time has come to put autism on the same footing as other childhood developmental disorders in terms of health care coverage, for the sake of children on the autism spectrum and their parents. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate for joining me in this critical effort.”

Oliver Wyman, an actuarial firm retained by Autism Speaks, estimated that health insurance premiums for New Yorkers would increase by 0.27 to 0.63 percent after six years of coverage for autism services. The estimate is based on actual experience in other states that have enacted similar bills.

Every state surrounding New York—Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Vermont—has enacted autism insurance reform legislation. So far in 2011, bills have been signed into law in Arkansas, Virginia and West Virginia, and a similar reform measure awaits final consideration Tuesday in Rhode Island, the only other Northeast state yet to enact reform.

To learn more about Autism Votes, an initiative of Autism Speaks focused on federal and state legislative advocacy, please visit www.autismvotes.org.