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

March 20, 2009

NEW YORK, NY (March 20, 2009)  -- Autism Speaks today joined New Mexico families and other autism advocacy organizations in applauding the state’s legislators for passing Senate Bill 39, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies.  The bill passed the House today in a vote of 51-15, following unanimous passage in the State Senate, and now heads to Governor Bill Richardson’s desk for signature into law.
The New Mexico bill requires insurers to cover up to $36,000 a year for treatments and therapies, including Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for children until age nineteen, or age twenty-two if the individual is enrolled in high school. The bill also sets a maximum lifetime coverage limit of $200,000.  Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is recognized as an effective, evidence-based treatment for children with autism.  The law specifies that there cannot be any limit put on the number of visits to an autism service provider and that the maximum per year benefit will be adjusted annually for inflation.
"I am elated with the final passage of SB 39 today.  It truly was a win for the autism community of New Mexico and the heavy lifting was done by our families living with autism 24/7.  All I did was carry the bill," said State Senator Harden, "But this won't be my first entrance into this arena. I was thrilled to find out that the individuals who opposed the bill did so because it did not include insurance for the public sector.  I am excited and encouraged to have their support to expand this coverage during the session next year."
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.  Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas – have passed similar autism insurance reform bills.  Twenty-four states have introduced bills this year, and New Mexico is the first to pass.
“With the passage of this legislation, New Mexico 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.  Legislatures across the country are introducing and passing bills that put an end to the discriminatory practices by insurance companies against children with an autism diagnosis.”
The passage of this legislation was the result of a grassroots advocacy effort led by hundreds of committed families with the support of local and national advocacy organizations. 
“For too long, New Mexico’s families have been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for therapies their children needed,” said Gay Finlayson, autism advocate and mother of two adults with autism. “It’s not everyday that the autism community gets a win in the fight to improve our children’s lives.  This is truly an historic moment for families in our state who worked so hard to get this bill passed.” 
Senate Bill 39 was sponsored by State Senator Clinton D. Harden (R-7) in the New Mexico State Senate.  A similar bill, House Bill 155, was introduced by State Representative Joni Marie Gutierrez (D-33).
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