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Governor Markell Makes Delaware 32nd State to Reform Autism Insurance

August 13, 2012

NEWARK, DE (August 13, 2012) – Autism Speaks, the nation's leading autism science and advocacy organization, today applauded Delaware Governor Jack Markell for signing legislation that makes Delaware the 32nd state to enact autism insurance reform. The new law, signed at Autism Delaware’s Newark office, requires private health insurance plans to cover the diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children and young adults up to age 21.

Sponsored by Senators Liane Sorenson and Catherine Cloutier, S.22 requires up to $36,000 in coverage for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapy. The law takes effect in four months as each state-regulated health plan is renewed or offered.

“Governor Markell has demonstrated leadership on an issue of critical concern to thousands of Delaware families,” said Lorri Unumb, Esq, Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs. “His leadership is also now being felt nationally as chairman of the National Governors Association (NGA) through his support for expanding employment opportunities for the disabled.

“We also thank Senators Sorenson and Cloutier, Representative Quinton Johnson and Autism Delaware for securing this victory,” Unumb said. “With autism now affecting 1 in every 88 American children, including 1 of every 54 boys, Delaware’s political leaders recognized that doing nothing in the face of an epidemic was no longer an option.”

A number of states have yet to require private insurance companies to cover even essential autism treatments and services. 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.

At the NGA conference last month in Williamsburg, Va, Markell unveiled his chair’s initiative, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities, announcing that he plans to convene governors, businesses, disability leaders and other thought leaders throughout the year to share ideas and move forward with support for Americans with disabilities. A major emphasis of the NGA initiative will be on people with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities who may require supports such as job coaches or personal attendants in order to live and work in the community.

In addition to Delaware, Michigan and Alaska have enacted autism insurance reform laws this year, while Louisiana, Vermont and Rhode Island have strengthened their existing laws. California’s new law went into effect July 1 and New York’s law becomes effective Nov. 1. About 75 percent of the U.S. population now lives in a state with an autism insurance reform law on the books.