Autism Speaks Endorses 2012 Kansas Bill Expanding Autism Insurance Coverage to Include More Families

NEW YORK, NY (February 23, 2012) --  Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today endorsed HB 2764 which would continue coverage for state employees provided under Kansas' 2010 autism insurance reform law and extend the same coverage to all state-regulated group plans for individuals with autism through age 18. The current law, enacted in 2010, is governed under the Kansas “pilot project” statute and restricts coverage to state employees.

Kansas families paying thousands of dollars a year in insurance premiums would be able to gain coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism sp ectrum disorder (ASD) up to $36,000 a year through age 6, and then $27,000 a year through age 18.

Introduced in the Federal and State Affairs Committee, HB 2764 has been referred to the House Insurance Committee. The measure would set no cap on visits for services and include coverage for evidence-based care prescribed by a licensed physician, psychologist or clinical social worker who determines that the treatment is medically necessary, including but not limited to applied behavioral analysis (ABA).

“We applaud and thank the Kansas legislature for its leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Kansas families,” said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs. “Autism Speaks joins the Kansas autism community in calling on the legislature to pass this bill and move the ball forward on autism insurance reform.”

Many states do not require private insurance companies to cover even essential autism treatments and services. In the absence of coverage, families often 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. 

A majority of states (29) representing 70 percent of the United States population have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. A number of states are considering bills to strengthen their existing laws and a similar measure in Iowa that would expand coverage beyond state employees has already been voted out of Senate committee and awaits a floor vote. 

Date: 2/23/2012

Autism Speaks Commends Sen. Menendez for Insisting Autism Therapies Get Covered Under New Federal Health Care Law

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) pressed U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to insure that the states include behavioral health treatments for autism as they implement the Affordable Care Act, expressing “serious concern” that the federal government’s efforts thus far have fallen short. Autism Speaks applauded the remarks by Senator Menendez, who is among a group of Senate and House champions that continues to fight for a strong federal commitment to meaningful autism insurance coverage.

During a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee last week, Menendez said Congress in writing the 2010 law “assured all qualified health plans would include behavioral health service as part of the essential benefits package. Among the universe of those who see those benefits are those who have family members in the autism spectrum.”

Peter Bell, Autism Speaks’ executive vice president for programs and services, said, “Autism Speaks applauds Senator Menendez for holding the federal government accountable to the autism community as it implements health care reform. Behavioral health treatments for autism were included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act as an 'essential health benefit' at the approval of Congress. Senator Menendez, along with many other colleagues in both the Senate and the House have been emphatic that HHS require the states to incorporate the coverage as they implement the law."

In recent guidance issued to the states, HHS identified several benchmark plans the states could use as they work towards a 2014 deadline to implement the Affordable Care Act.

“I am concerned that HHS’ recent bulletin on the essential benefits health package refers to states using a benchmark plan as the basis for the essential benefits health package,” Menendez told Sebelius. “But because of the current patchwork of state autism coverage requirements and exemptions, I know I’m not alone in the serious concerns that the benchmarking plan is insufficient to assure that behavioral treatment is available to all qualified health plans as the law dictates it to be.”

Menendez previously had issued a letter to Secretary Sebelius identifying similar concerns and stressing that behavioral health treatments for autism were required by law by Congress. To date, 29 states representing 70% of the U.S. population have enacted autism insurance reform laws that require state-regulated health plans provide coverage for evidence-based autism therapies including behavioral health treatments.

Date: 2/21/2012

Autism Speaks Endorses Alabama Autism Insurance Reform Bills
SB283/HB345 Would Assure Access to Health Care for Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

NEW YORK, NY (February 15, 2012) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for SB 283 and HB 345, which would bar large group health insurance plans in Alabama from refusing to cover the diagnosis and treatment of treatment of autism.
Families paying thousands of dollars a year in insurance premiums would gain coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Senate bill would provide coverage for children through age 9; the House bill would provide coverage through age 18.
Sponsored in the Alabama Senate by Senator Cam Ward and in the House by Rep. Mac McCutcheon, the bills include coverage of behavioral health treatments, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based autism therapy, for up to $50,000 a year. The bills would apply to large group health insurance plans regulated by the state of Alabama.
“We applaud and thank Senator Ward and Rep. McCutcheon for their leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Alabama families,” said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs. “Autism Speaks joins Alabama’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass this initiative and join the growing majority of states that have assured access to health care for children with autism.”
Some states do not require private insurance companies to cover even essential autism treatments and services. In the absence of coverage, families often 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.
A majority of states (29) representing 70 percent of the United States population, including Florida, have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. Similar bills are before legislatures in other states this year.

Date: 2/15/2012

Autism Speaks Endorses Iowa Bill Expanding Autism Insurance Coverage to More Families
Senate Bill Would Expand 2010 Law Limiting Coverage to State Employees

NEW YORK, NY (February 10, 2012) --  Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today endorsed SF.2128 which would amend Iowa’s 2010 autism insurance reform law by expanding coverage to group plans for individuals with autism up to the age of 26. The current law restricts coverage to state employees.
Iowa families paying thousands of dollars a year in insurance premiums would be able to gain coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including up to $36,000 a year for applied behavior analysis (ABA). 
Sponsored in the Iowa Senate by Sen. Daryl Beall (D-Webster), the bill has attracted 20 Senate cosponsors and is before the Senate Commerce Committee. The measure would set no cap on visits for services and include coverage for psychological, psychiatric, pharmaceutical and therapeutic services. 
“We applaud and thank Senator Beall for his leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Iowa families,” said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs. “Autism Speaks joins Iowa’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass this bill and move the ball forward on autism insurance reform.”
Many states do not require private insurance companies to cover even essential autism treatments and services. In the absence of coverage, families often 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. 
A majority of states (29) representing 70 percent of the United States population have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. A number of states, such as Iowa, Vermont, Rhode Island and West Virginia, are considering bills to strengthen their existing laws and Virginia has already enacted a measure strengthening its 2011 law.