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Autism Speaks Joins the Montana Autism Community In Applauding State Legislators for Passing Autism Insurance Legislation

NEW YORK, NY (April 9, 2009) -- Autism Speaks today joined Montana families and other autism advocacy organizations in applauding the state’s legislators for passing Brandon'’s Bill, Senate Bill 234, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies. The bill passed the House today in a vote of 75-24, following the March 25th passage in the State Senate, and now heads to Governor Brian Schweitzer'’s desk for signature into law.

The Montana bill requires insurers to cover up to $50,000 annually for a child with autism 8 years of age or younger and $20,000 annually for a child between the ages of 9 and 18. Coverage includes Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, which is recognized as an effective, evidence-based treatment for children with autism.

In many states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services. Nine states – Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas – have passed similar autism insurance reform bills. Twenty-six states have introduced bills this year.

"“The passage of SB 243, Brandon's Bill, will ensure that health care insurance covers the much needed treatment for autism in Montana,"” said State Senator Kim Gillan, the bill'’s sponsor. "“This legislation will give children diagnosed with autism access to treatment and open the door to leading productive lives. As a mother and state senator, I will consider this one of the highlights of my 13 year legislative career. This was a team effort and Autism Speaks played a key, support role in helping Montanans understand the importance of early intervention and treatment for autistic children.”"

"“With the passage of this legislation, Montana joins the ranks of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on families of children with autism,"” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice president for Government Relations. “"Autism insurance reform has gained significant national momentum. The passage of Brandon’s Bill comes just days after Governor Bill Richardson signed a similar bill into law in New Mexico.”"

"“For too long, Montana’s families have been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for therapies their children needed,"” said Laura Simonsen, Autism Speaks Montana Chapter Advocacy Chair and mother of Brandon for whom “Brandon’'s Bill” is named. “"Our heartfelt thanks goes out to the state legislators who worked so hard in the House and Senate to get this bill passed. This is truly an historic moment for families in our state.”"

Brandon’s Bill, Senate Bill 234, was sponsored by State Senator Kim Gillan (D-24) in the Montana State Senate and championed in the State House by Representative Kendall Van Dyk (D-49).
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