Autism Speaks Endorses Louisiana Bill Raising Age Cap to 21 on Autism Insurance Benefits

NEW YORK, NY (March 8, 2012) –  Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today endorsed HB.771, which would amend Louisiana’s 2008 autism insurance reform law by raising the age cap to 21 and eliminating the $144,000 cap on lifetime benefits. Families paying thousands of dollars a year in insurance premiums would be able to continue coverage for the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for individuals aged 16 through 20 if the legislation is enacted.

Sponsored in the Louisiana House of Representatives by Rep. Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge), the bill would eliminate any ceiling on lifetime benefits. Under current law, coverage ends once lifetime claims reach $144,000. In addition, the bill would eliminate the current requirement that treatments be supervised by a physician or psychologist.

"We are so proud of the leadership Louisiana demonstrated as one of the first of 29 states to pass autism insurance reform," said Shelley Hendrix, Autism Speaks director of grassroots development, who lives in Baton Rouge. "Actual data gathered since the program was enacted in Louisiana for two years reflects a cost of 40 cents per member per month, less than the cost of a postage stamp.

“The law provides access to medical treatment for some of Louisiana's children with autism giving them a better chance at living independent lives and becoming taxpayers themselves one day,” she said. “We are thrilled with the expansion of this law to provide coverage to even more children."

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. Similar bills are before legislatures in other states this year, while states with existing laws have joined Louisiana in efforts to make them stronger.