California Senate Approves 5-Year Extension on Autism Law

SACRAMENTO (May 16, 2013) -- The California Senate voted 36-0 to extend the state's 2011 autism insurance reform law, which is set to expire next year, until 2019. Sponsored by Seante President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the measure, SB.126, moves next to the Assembly.

Steinberg sponsored the existing 2011 law (SB.946) which is due to expire in mid-2014.

“An estimated 12,500 Californians are currently receiving early autism treatment under the 2011 law with estimated savings to taxpayers of $200 million annually in special education costs, which were previously funded by school districts or regional centers," Steinberg said after the vote. "Californians with autism now have access to the most extensive insurance coverage of any state in the nation.”

The current law requires state-regulated health plans to cover behavioral health treatment, such as Applied Behavior Analysis, consistent with other benefits covered under their policies. Insurers are also required to maintain an "adequate" network of ABA providers.

Steinberg has also committed to working with Governor Jerry Brown to restore behavioral treatment for children with autism who lost their services during the transition from the Healthy Families program to Medi-Cal.

“While SB 946 is a proud achievement, it’s not nearly enough," said Steinberg. "This year we intend to fight to make sure all kids regardless of whether they’re on public or private insurance get the benefit of behavioral therapy. We must seek to include behavioral treatment for autism in Medi-Cal Managed Health Care to ensure children receive necessary and equitable services.”