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Autism Speaks Joins Kansas Parents and Autism Advocates In Denouncing Insurance Industry Claims

April 20, 2009

NEW YORK, NY (April 20, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation'’s largest autism advocacy organization, today asked Kansas legislators to admonish Coventry Health Care of Kansas for its deceptive tactics and absurd claims that attempt to disparage legislation that would end private insurance companies'’ long-standing practice of discrimination against children with autism, and to resolve to support House Bill 2367, also known as Kate’'s Law.

A recent release put out by Coventry Health Care of Kansas Inc. to business owners in the state warned that passage of Kate'’s Law “could force average premiums up as much as 2.5% to 3%”. However, the licensed Actuarial Consulting practice of Oliver Wyman, an international consulting firm, has put the actual increase at 0.76% per policy holder, far less than Coventry claims (view this report on www.AutismVotes.org).
In releasing these numbers, Coventry provides no data and even dismisses its own industry'’s findings. Specifically, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance’s (CAHI) March 2009 study found the following: “CAHI’s actuarial working team estimates that an autism mandate increases the cost of health insurance by about 1 percent”.

The Coventry release also alleges that the autism therapies that Kate'’s Law seeks to require coverage for are educational in nature, rather than medical. Autism is a medical condition. It is diagnosed by a medical doctor, not a school principal. Kate’s Law will give Kansas families access to the medically-necessary, evidence-based autism treatments that their children need. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy are all treatments that are prescribed by licensed physicians or licensed psychologists for the treatment of autism. The obligation of the educational system is not to treat a disorder, but to accommodate the child with a disorder and facilitate their ability to learn in an educational environment.

“Promotion of these ridiculous estimates, even in the face of conflicting data from their own trade organization, is being used to tap into people’s fears and vulnerabilities,” said Elizabeth Emken, Vice President of Government Relations for Autism Speaks. “The forces that oppose access to healthcare coverage for these children will clearly go to any lengths, including spreading damaging misinformation, to win this battle.”

“Coventry Health Care of Kansas has knowingly misled legislators by choosing to ignore professional actuarial work, including the work of their own industry organization, CAHI. Misrepresentation and conjecture hurts families, shifts costs onto school systems, and encourages individual economic hardship – it doesn’t lead to real solutions,” added Emken.

To date, ten states – Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have passed autism insurance reform legislation to cover essential autism treatments and services. Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.
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