Autism Speaks: Missouri Report Latest Evidence of How Insurance Lobby Inflates Impact of Autism Coverage

NEW YORK, NY (February 2, 2012)  Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today cited a new report issued by the Missouri Department of Insurance as the latest evidence to discredit claims by the insurance industry that providing autism benefits will cause premiums to skyrocket for all policyholders.

The Missouri report examined the impact of the state’s autism insurance reform law, which took effect Jan.1, 2011, and found that insurance companies have paid out $4.3 million in claims, or 0.1 percent of total claims paid for 2011. Nearly 4,000 Missourians used the coverage for behavioral health treatments and other services for their children with autism.

“This study follows the experience in five other states that have tracked claims data since enacting autism insurance reform laws,” said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs. “In the first year as the benefit ramps up, the premium impact averages just $0.15 per member per month. But even after the benefit stabilizes in year two, the average premium impact is only $0.31. By this measure, the Missouri benefit is coming in at $0.25. These real-world data are a fraction of the undocumented numbers thrown out by insurance lobbyists.”

Since 2007, Autism Speaks has helped enact autism insurance reform laws across the country. Today, 29 states representing 70 percent of the nation’s population have such laws, and Autism Speaks is working in additional states this year. The laws prevent health insurers from discriminating against people with autism by refusing to cover the diagnosis and treatment for autism, which can cost $50,000 a year or more.

The Missouri law applies to health plans covering 1.3 million state residents.

"This report shows good news on two fronts," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "First, it shows that the new law has already helped thousands of Missourians. Second, it shows the autism mandate should have minimal impact on health care costs and insurance premiums."

During legislative debate in Missouri, the Associated Press referenced claims from the insurance industry that the impact “could be closer to three percent.” This undocumented number is repeatedly cited in statehouses around the nation by insurance lobbyists trying to defeat autism insurance reform legislation.