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Perry Expands Autism Insurance Benefits in Texas

AUSTIN (June 15, 2013) -- Gov. Rick Perry has signed a bill expanding autism insurance benefits in Texas by eliminating any age caps for state-regulated health plans. In 2007, Perry signed legislation that made Texas just the third state nationally to enact autism insurance reform, then in 2009 signed another bill that raised the age cap from 5 to 9.

The new law eliminates the age 9 cap, but limits annual ABA benefits to $36,000 a year for children aged 10 and above. Under current law, state-regulated health plans are required to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism, including behavioral health treatment, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), as well as speech, occupational and physical therapy.

Perry signed the bill without comment at the conclusion of the state's regular legislative session.

Sponsored by Senators Kirk Watson of Austin, Wendy Davis of Forth Worth and Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville, SB.1484 will take effect in September. To qualify for the extended coverage, children must be diagnosed with autism by the age of 10 to gain the coverage.

The House champions for the bill included Rep. Larry Gonzales of Round Rock, Rep. Ron Simmons of Carrollton, and Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston.

Texas is one of four states with existing autism insurance reform laws that has considered bills to expand coverage this year. A fifth state, New Mexico, earlier enacted a new law expanding its coverage to public employees and Kansas, by regulatory action, has made coverage for its state employees permanent. Last year, Louisana, Vermont, Virginia and Rhode Island all expanded coverage under their existing laws.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton last month signed a bill that made Minnesota the 33rd state to enact autism insurance reform. Oregon and North Carolina are nearing final action on bills to enact reform, and the District of Columbia is moving forward with reform covering individual, small group and health benefit exchange plans.