New Hawaii Insurance Reform Bills Endorsed

NEW YORK (January 28, 2013) -- Autism Speaks today endorsed SB.668 and HB.721, the new Hawaii autism insurance reform bills, which would require many health plans to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Families paying thousands of dollars a year in insurance premiums would gain coverage for the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Sponsored in the Senate by Senators Josh Green (D-Kohala/Kona) and Russell Ruderman (D-Puna, Ka'u), and in the House by Rep. Bertrand Kobayashi (D-Waialae Kahala), the bills would include up to $50,000 a year in coverage for behavioral health treatments, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In addition, the bill would require coverage for autism-related psychiatric, psychological, pharmaceutical and therapeutic care.

Benefits would apply though age 25.

The Health, and Commerce and Consumer Protection committees will hold a joint hearing on the bill Wednesday, January 30 at 2 pm in Conference Room 229 at the State Capitol.

"“We commend Senators Green and Ruderman and Rep. Kobayashi for their leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Hawaii families,"” said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs. “"Autism Speaks joins Hawaii'’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass this bill so that Hawaii can join the 32 other states that have delivered healthcare coverage for children with autism."

Hawaii remains among the few states that do not 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 $50,000 or more per year. In the process, many risk their homes and the educations of their unaffected children essentially mortgaging their entire futures.

Alaska, Delaware and Michigan enacted reform laws last year; bills this year have been introduced in Oregon and Nebraska with more expected to follow.