NEW YORK, NY (July 29, 2010) -- Autism Speaks joined State Representative Barbara L'Italien, Advocates For Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM), parents of children with autism and other autism advocates today in applauding the members of the state Senate for their unanimous passage of House Bill 4935 (formerly H. 3809), which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis. H. 4935 was passed unanimously by the House on Tuesday. The bill now heads to Governor Deval Patrick's desk for signature into law.
The bill, which is sponsored in the Senate by Majority Leader Frederick Berry (2nd Essex District), and in the House by State Representative LItalien (18th Essex District), Vice Chair of Ways and Means, would end private insurance companies discrimination against children with autism by requiring coverage of medically necessary autism treatments, including evidence-based behavioral health treatments. The bill has been endorsed by Boston Mayor Tom Menino, the Arc of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council. Under H.4935, there are no age or dollar caps on benefits.
"Autism Speaks applauds the members of the Massachusetts Senate for their unanimous passing of House Bill 4935, thereby extending 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 now call on Governor Patrick to sign this bill into law, allowing Massachusetts to join the ranks of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on families of children with autism."
"This is a victory for the courageous families who live with the uncertainty of autism daily said Senator Berry. My goal was to ease the burden placed on these families. No one should be denied a healthy outcome, because of the high cost of services. My hope is that we ensured that today."
Most states do not require private insurance companies to cover even essential autism treatments. 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.
We are pleased to have passed to have passed this major hurdle, which will bring people in Massachusetts affected by autism the systemic change that is so essential to accessing treatment, said Amy Weinstock, Chair of the AFAM Insurance Working Group.
Massachusetts could become the twenty-third state to enact an autism insurance reform law. So far, twenty-two states Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin -- have enacted this legislation.