President Obama Includes Funding For Autism In His FY 2010 Budget Prop

Washington, DC (February 26, 2009) - Today President Barack Obama unveiled a Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal that includes $211 million for the Combating Autism Act (CAA). This is the first year since the passage of the CAA that direct funding for autism has been included in the President’s budget proposal. Passed in 2006, the CAA authorized $920 million in federal funding over five years to fight autism through biomedical and environmental research, surveillance, awareness and early identification.

Date: 2/26/2009


Autism Speaks Calls for $200 Million of Stimulus Funds for Autism Research
(January 20, 2009) - As a result of the stimulus plan recently signed into law by President Obama, (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive more than $10 billion in new funding over the next two ye

(February 20, 2009) - As a result of the stimulus plan recently signed into law by President Obama, (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive more than $10 billion in new funding over the next two years. With the increased prevalence of autism and a history of insufficient federal funding for autism research, Autism Speaks – the largest autism science and advocacy organization in the country – calls on the NIH to commit $100 million in funding for autism-specific research in each of the next two years. The new funding should focus on research into the causes of autism, new and enhanced treatment options, and improved methods of early diagnosis and intervention.

A $200 million commitment to autism research would amount to just two percent of this unexpected, new windfall for medical research, an amount that is certainly reasonable and appropriate considering both the need and the scientific opportunity. “For too long, autism research has been grossly under funded at the federal level,” said Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer. “This is a prime opportunity to help remedy that discrepancy by dedicating a significant amount of new NIH funding to truly innovative and promising autism research. There are many ‘beaker-ready’ research initiatives that merit this funding and hold tremendous promise for improving our understanding of autism and how to more effectively help individuals living with autism today. A significant infusion of NIH support will greatly accelerate the search for answers.”

"By allocating this significant amount of new research dollars to autism-related science, President Obama will be making an important down payment on fulfilling his campaign platform pledge to double research spending during his first term, and to increase the overall federal autism budget to $1 billion per year," said Bob Wright, Co-founder of Autism Speaks. "In light of the $35 billion annual public health cost of autism, this money would represent a relatively small investment that can potentially result in major long-term savings to our society."

Autism Speaks urges NIH to provide increased support for studies focused on identifying the genetic and environmental causes and development of effective treatments throughout the lifespan, as well as support for the creation of biorepositories, comparative effectiveness research, and fellowships.

Date: 2/20/2009


Autism Speaks Joins Kansas Families to Answer Legislator Questions Raised About Kate’s Law
(February 20, 2009) Kate’s Law is Necessary to Change Insurance Law and End Healthcare Discrimination Against Children with Autism.

Kate’s Law is Necessary to Change Insurance Law and End Healthcare Discrimination Against Children with Autism

NEW YORK, NY (February 20, 2009) -- Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today joined Kansas autism organizations and families in calling for the Kansas State Senate to pass insurance reform legislation (Senate Bill 12), known as “Kate’s Law.”  Kate’s Law, would require private health insurance companies to provide coverage of up to $75,000 for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. 

Kate’s Law recently had its first hearing in the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee, Chaired by Senator Ruth Teichman.  Chairwoman Teichman, members of the Committee, and other Senators have raised several questions that focus on three main issues:  1) The medical necessity of the autism treatment covered under Kate’s Law; 2) The effect of Kate’s Law on insurance premiums; And 3) The current coverage for autism under the Kansas Mental Health Parity Act.

Autism is a medical condition.  It is diagnosed by a medical doctor, not a school principal.  Kate’s Law will give Kansas families access to the medically-necessary, evidence-based autism treatments that their children need.  Speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy are all treatments that are prescribed by licensed physicians or licensed psychologists for the treatment of autism.  The obligation of the educational system is not to treat a disorder, but to accommodate the child with a disorder and facilitate their ability to learn in an educational environment.  The Department of Defense’s Tri-Care health insurance plan for military dependents is specifically prohibited by federal law from covering “unproven care or special education.”  Tri-Care provides coverage of the autism treatments cited in Kate’s Law as part of its Extended Care Health Option, because these treatments are medically-necessary.

The insurance companies are touting 2.5 percent increases in premiums, however they have failed to present a basis for these numbers.  A recently released independent cost analysis of Kate’s Law, put together by the actuarial firm Oliver Wyman, estimated a premium increase much lower than the insurance company quote - as small as 0.70 percent and no larger than 1.07 percent, depending on the market receiving coverage.

Kate’s Law fills the enormous gaps in care for autism that are left by the Kansas Mental Health Parity Act.  The Mental Health Parity Act does not cover the treatment that is most effective and most commonly-prescribed, for autism – ABA therapy.  Despite passage of the Mental Health Parity Act, despite 40 years of proven effectiveness in the treatment of autism, and despite being recommended by the Surgeon General some insurers have specific written policy statements stating that ABA therapy will not be covered.  Others simply exclude behavioral therapy or habilitative treatments altogether.  In short, the Kansas Mental Health Parity Act did very little to help children with autism access the therapies they need to treat their disorder, is neurobiological, not a mental health impairment.  Kate’s Law is needed, so that children with autism can access the therapies they need.  Families affected by autism simply do not have the energy or money to fight this battle in the courts any longer.

“During these difficult economic times are we really going to allow the insurance companies, one of the more solvent industries right now, to get off scott-free?” asked Elizabeth Emken, Vice President of Government Relations for Autism Speaks.  “It is time that the insurance industry paid its fair share for the medical treatments of its own customers.  Autism Speaks joins Kansas’ autism community in calling on the Senate to pass Kate’s Law and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”

To date, eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance legislative reform that requires insurers to cover ABA therapies, which typically cost upward of $50,000 a year – a cost well beyond the means of most families.

Date: 2/20/2009


Autism Speaks Endorses Iowa Autism Insurance Reform Legislation
(February 19, 2009) House File 1/Senate File 1 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

House File 1/Senate File 1 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment
 
Des Moines, IA (February 19, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for House File 1/Senate File 1, the autism insurance reform bill.  The legislation would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for individuals up to the age of 21.   The maximum benefit would be $36,000 per year.

Sponsored in the Iowa State House of Representatives by State Representative Ray S. Zirkelbach (D-31) and in the Senate by State Senator Daryl Beall (D-25), HF 1/SF 1 includes coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically-necessary autism therapy.

“We applaud and thank Representative Zirkelbach and Senator Beall for their leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Iowa State families,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice President of Government Relations.  “Autism Speaks joins Iowa’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass HF 1 and SF 1 and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”

Most states 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 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.

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation.  Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 2/19/2009


Autism Speaks Endorses Ohio Autism Insurance Reform Legislation
(February 19, 2009) House Bill 8 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

House Bill 8 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment
 
Columbus, OH (February 19, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for House Bill 8, the autism insurance reform bill.  The legislation would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
 
Sponsored in the Ohio State House of Representatives by State Representative Ted Celeste (D-24) and Representative Nancy Garland (D-20), HB 8 includes coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically-necessary autism therapy.

“We applaud and thank Representatives Celeste and Garland for their leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Ohio families,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice President of Government Relations.  “Autism Speaks joins Ohio’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass HB 8 and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”

Most states 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 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.

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation.  Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 2/19/2009


Autism Speaks Endorses Wisconsin Autism Insurance Reform Legislation
(February 19, 2009) Senate Substitute Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 3 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

Senate Substitute Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 3 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment
 
MADISON, WI (February 19, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for Senate Substitute Amendment 1 on Senate Bill 3.  This amendment would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  With parents and advocates, including Amy Masek and Nissan Bar-Lev of the group Autism Insurance Now, working on this legislation for the past several years in the state, the substitute amendment was offered on February 6 in the Wisconsin Senate by State Senator Judy Robson (D-15).

The substitute amendment includes coverage of intensive-level services, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an intensive evidence-based, medically-necessary autism therapy. The maximum benefits are capped through a tiered system, meaning that an insured individual with autism can receive $60,000 annually for up to four years of intensive-level services and can receive $30,000 annually thereafter for post-intensive-level services.

Since being amended, the SB 3 has been passed unanimously by 3 Senate Committees.

“We applaud and thank Senator Robson for her leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Washington State families,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice President of Government Relations.  “Autism Speaks joins Wisconsin’s autism community in calling on the Senate to pass Substitute Amendment 1 to SB 3 and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”

Most states 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 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.

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation.  Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 2/19/2009


Autism Speaks Endorses Georgia Autism Insurance Reform Legislation
(February 18, 2009) Autism Speaks today announced its support for Senate Bill 161 and House Bill 426

SB 161 and HB 426 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

Atlanta, GA (February 18, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for Senate Bill 161 and House Bill 426, also known the autism insurance reform bills.  The legislation would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  

Sponsored in the Georgia State House of Representatives by State Representative Katie Dempsey (13th district) and in the Senate by State Senator Johnny Grant (25th district), HB 426/SB 161 includes coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically-necessary autism therapy.  Coverage for ABA would be subject to a maximum benefit of $55,000 per year.

“We applaud and thank Representative Dempsey and Senator Grant for their leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Georgia families,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice President of Government Relations.  “Autism Speaks joins Georgia’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass the autism insurance reform bills and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”
Most states 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 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.

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation.  Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 2/18/2009


Brandon's Bill Passed by Montana Senate Committee
(February 17, 2009) Senate Committee Passes Brandon's Bill

Helena, MT (February 17, 2009) - Yesterday, the Montana Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee passed Senate Bill 234, also known as Brandon's Bill. 

Brandon's Bill will require private health insurance companies to provide coverage of autism therapies and services.  The amount of coverage is tiered, meaning that children diagnosed with autism would receive upcoverage of up to $50,000 a year for autism services through age 8 and up to $20,000 a year in coverage from age 9 through age 21.

Senators on the Committee passed the bill in a 6-5 vote.  Brandon's Bill now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

Date: 2/17/2009


Autism Speaks Endorses Nevada Autism Insurance Reform Legislation
(February 13, 2009) AB 162 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

AB 162 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment
 
CARSON CITY, NV (February 13, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for Assembly Bill 162, also known as the autism insurance reform bill.  The legislation would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Sponsored in the Nevada State Assembly by State Assemblyman James Ohrenschall (D-12), AB 162 includes coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically-necessary autism therapy.

“We applaud and thank Assemblyman Ohrenschall for his leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Nevada families,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice President of Government Relations.  “Autism Speaks joins Nevada’s autism community in calling on the Assembly to pass AB 162 and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”

Most states 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 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.

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation.  Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 2/13/2009


UPDATE: See Our Revised Model Autism Insurance Reform Bill
(February 11, 2009)

(February 11, 2009) - Autism Speaks has been working with families in the states on autism insurance reform legislation for over two years. Autism insurance reform legislation has now passed in eight states. We are fortunate to have learned many lessons along the way by working with legislative counsel across the country.  Our model bill reflects language that has been vetted throughout this process and we have refined the model legislation accordingly.  Autism Speaks’ goal is to provide the strongest model possible that provides coverage and protection to families, can stand up to rigorous legislative review, and ultimately become law.

Please contact us at advocacy@autismspeaks.org if you have any questions, or would like assistance bringing autism insurance reform to your state.

Date: 2/11/2009


Autism Insurance Reform Bill is Passed by the New Mexico State Senate in Unanimous Vote
(February 9, 2009) Today the New Mexico Senate voted unanimously to pass Senate Bill 39

Santa Fe, NM (February 9, 2009) -- Today the New Mexico Senate voted unanimously to pass Senate Bill 39, the autism insurance reform bill.  This bill will require private insurance companies to provide coverage of medically necessary, evidence-based autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.  

The bill will now head to the New Mexico State House for review.

Date: 2/9/2009


Families Affected By Autism Call On Senate Committee To Advance Bill Ending Healthcare Discrimination Against Children With Autism
(February 9, 2009) Parents of children with autism and other advocates gathered today at the State Capitol, calling on members of the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee to vote to advance Senate Bill 1260 for a vote by the full Senate.

RICHMOND, VA (February 9, 2009) -- Parents of children with autism and other advocates gathered today at the State Capitol, calling on members of the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee to vote to advance Senate Bill 1260 for a vote by the full Senate.  The bill would end insurers’ discriminatory policies by requiring them to provide coverage for medically necessary treatments for children with autism. 
 
Last week, in a moment of bitter irony for many families whose children are unable to speak, the members of a subcommittee of the Virginia House Commerce and Labor Committee failed to vote for or against House Bill 1588, the companion bill to SB 1260.  The committee’s inaction put the onus on the Senate to move this critical legislation forward.

“Last week’s decision by the members of the House Commerce and Labor subcommittee 1 to simply sit on their hands was a stunning disappointment for families from all over the Commonwealth who have been sharing their stories of financial devastation and desperate need of treatment for their children,” said Elizabeth Emken, Vice President of Government Relations at Autism Speaks.  “We join the Virginia autism community in calling on the Senate to step up and lead on this critical issue.” 

Sponsored by Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27), SB 1260 would require private health insurance companies to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder.  Coverage would be subject to an inflation adjusted maximum benefit of $36,000 annually.  The bill, which applies only to fully-funded group health plans governed by state law, includes diagnosis and coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. 

“Families simple cannot afford to go it alone anymore in providing their children with medically-necessary services to treat autism,” said Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel.  “I call on my Senate colleagues on the Commerce and Labor Committee to do the right thing, to take up this charge, and to help these families provide the evidence-based care their children need and deserve.”

In November, every elected official on the governor’s Mandated Benefits Commission voted to advance the bill to this year’s General Assembly.

Most states 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 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.

"Virginia families are stunned and outraged by the House Subcommittee's purposeful inaction despite our eight month education and grassroots campaign efforts,” said Pat DiBari, Chapter Advocacy Chair for Autism Speaks.  “We still deserve and demand a vote in the Virginia House and we hope the Senate will be more receptive to families, doctors, educators and others touched by autism in Virginia."

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation.  Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 2/9/2009


Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Holds Meeting to Discuss the 2008 NIH Strategic Plan for Autism Research
(February 6, 2009) An important meeting took place in Washington, DC, on February 4, during which members of the IACC discussed the NIH strategic plan for autism research

Washington, DC (February 6, 2009) - An important meeting took place in Washington, DC, on February 4, during which members of the IACC discussed the NIH strategic plan for autism research and, more specifically, addressed the issue of the removal of two objectives on vaccine safety research that were withdrawn from the plan at the last meeting. Because of the manner in which the objectives were withdrawn, without adequate notice to the committee and public, Autism Speaks had previously voiced its disappointment and withdrew its support from the strategic plan.

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), which was created as part of the Combating Autism Act to coordinate all autism-related efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is comprised of federal government officials and appointed public members from the autism advocacy community.

Mark Noble, Ph.D., a scientist from the University of Rochester Medical Center, gave a presentation to the committee, providing his analysis and reinterpretation of published studies on thimerosal in relation to autism prevalence and occurrence rates. Bruce Gellin, M.D., M.P.H., director of the federal government's National Vaccine Program Office, spoke to the committee about the ongoing efforts of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) Vaccine Safety Working Group. It was agreed that NVAC and IACC will begin to work together to share information and expertise as both committees move forward with their respective missions.

During the public comments section of the meeting, Peter Bell, Autism Speaks' Executive Vice President for Programs and Services, read a statement expressing Autism Speaks' dissatisfaction with the process by which objectives addressing questions about vaccine safety were removed from the plan without adequate notice or input from the public. He stressed the importance of trust, transparency, collaboration, and better communication among families affected by autism, the medical and scientific communities, and the federal government. Bell emphasized that Autism Speaks' position regarding the need for on-going vaccine safety research remains strongly grounded in science. He noted that evidence suggests that there are many causes of autism – involving both genetic and environmental factors, and that there remains a possibility that individuals with underlying medical or genetic conditions might be more susceptible to adverse effects of vaccines. Bell emphasized Autism Speaks' commitment to funding research exploring the role of a wide range of environmental factors including vaccines, and their interaction with genetic factors, as potential risk factors for autism. Furthermore, Bell explained Autism Speaks' view that addressing parents' questions and concerns will help parents become more confident and trusting in our medical community and the vaccine program, which will result in more children being vaccinated – a better health outcome for all children.

You can read Bell's statement here.

Date: 2/6/2009


Minnesota House Committee Passes HF 359
(February 5, 2009) Yesterday, the Minnesota House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Ovesight Committee held a hearing on HF 359

St. Paul, MS (February 5, 2009) - Yesterday, the Minnesota House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Ovesight Committee held a hearing on HF 359, the autism insurance reform bil.  This bill seeks to require that insurance companies provide coverage of medically necessary, evidence-based autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.

Parents and advocates from around the state attended the hearing and testified on behalf of the bill and the Committee voted to pass the bill.

The bill has been forwarded on to the House Commerce and Labor Committee for further consideration.

Date: 2/5/2009


Autism Speaks Endorses Kentucky Autism Insurance Reform Legislation
(February 4, 2009) House Bill 190 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment.

House Bill 190 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment
 
Frankfort, KY (February 4, 2009) -- Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for House Bill 190, also known as the autism insurance reform bill.  The legislation would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
 
Sponsored in the Kentucky House of Representatives by State Representative Scott W. Brinkman (R-32), HB 190 includes coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically-necessary autism therapy.

“We applaud and thank Representative Brinkman for his leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Kentucky families,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice President of Government Relations.  “Autism Speaks joins Kentucky’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass House Bill 190 and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”

Most states 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 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.

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation.  Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 2/4/2009


Autism Speaks Endorses New Mexico Autism Insurance Reform Legislation
(February 3, 2009) SB 39 and HB 155 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

SB 39 and HB 155 Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

Santa Fe, NM (February 3, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for Senate Bill 39 and House Bill 155, also known as the autism insurance reform bills. The legislation would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). SB 39 would cover individuals up to the age of 19, or 22 if in high school, with a maximum benefit of $36,000 per year and a lifetime maximum benefit of $200,000. HB 155 would cover individuals up to the age of 18 with a maximum benefit of $50,000 per year and no lifetime cap.

Sponsored in the New Mexico State Senate by State Senator Clinton D. Harden (R-7) and in the House by Representative Joni Marie Gutierrez (D-33), the autism insurance reform bills include coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically-necessary autism therapy. 

“We applaud and thank Senator Harden and Representative Gutierrez for their leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of New Mexico families,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice President of Government Relations. “Autism Speaks joins New Mexico’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass the autism insurance reform bills and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”

Most states 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 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.

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 2/3/2009


Autism Insurance Reform Bill Introduced in Minnesota State Legislature; Hearing to Be Held on Wednesday Feb. 4!
(February 2, 2009) State Representative Kim Norton and State Senator Linda Scheid have introduced bills in the Minnesota House and Senate to ensure that treatment for children with autism is covered by private health insurers.

St. Paul, MN (February 2, 2009) - State Representative Kim Norton and State Senator Linda Scheid have introduced bills in the Minnesota House and Senate to ensure that treatment for children with autism is covered by private health insurers. HF 359 and SF 312, the autism insurance reform bills, will require that insurance companies provide coverage for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, medication, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA is a behavioral therapy which is accepted by most medical authorities as the most effective treatment for Autism.

Please Attend: A hearing has been scheduled for HF 359 in the Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee on Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm in room 200 of the State Office Building in St. Paul.

Similar versions of this bill have passed in States throughout the country including Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and Texas.  This is a hot topic in states nationwide and Minnesota should be proud to be a part of such an important movement!

Date: 2/2/2009


Health Benefit for Children with Autism Costs $1.90 per Month per Person
(February 2, 2009) Today Autism Speaks released a cost estimate prepared by Oliver Wyman Actuarial Consulting of House Bill 1588 and Senate Bill 1260.

Richmond, VA (February 2, 2009) – Today Autism Speaks released a cost estimate prepared by Oliver Wyman Actuarial Consulting of House Bill 1588 and Senate Bill 1260.  According to the Wyman actuarial cost estimate, providing health insurance benefits for children with autism would cause premiums to increase by a mere $1.90 per month per covered person.

The legislation pending in the Virginia General Assembly would require certain health insurers to provide benefits of up to $36,000 per year for children with autism.  Today one out of every 150 people has some form of autism spectrum disorder.  A wide range of therapies can be provided to children with autism depending upon the severity of the disorder.  The Wyman report found that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) – an intensive therapy for children with severe forms of autism – was responsible for most of the $1.90 per month premium increase.  Both the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatricians have endorsed ABA as a highly effective medical therapy for many children.

Oliver Wyman Actuarial Consulting, Inc. is part of the Marsh & McLennan family of companies.  With over 60 members of the American Academy of Actuaries, Oliver Wyman is one of the largest actuarial practices in North America.  Oliver Wyman’s health practice, which has twelve credentialed actuaries, advises insurers, regulators, governments, interest groups, and others.

Read the Oliver Wyman report

Date: 2/2/2009


Autism Speaks Endorses Montana Autism Insurance Reform Legislation
(January 30, 2009) Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for Senate Bill 234, also known as “Brandon’s Bill,”

“Brandon’s Bill” Would End Health Care Discrimination Against Children with Autism by Requiring Coverage of Diagnosis and Treatment

Helena, MT (January 30, 2009) –

Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for Senate Bill 234, also known as “Brandon’s Bill,” the autism insurance reform bill. The legislation would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).   The maximum benefit would be $50,000 per year.

Sponsored in the Montana State Senate by State Senator Kim Gillan (D-24) SB 234 includes coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically-necessary autism therapy.

“We applaud and thank Senator Gillan for her leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of Montana families,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks Vice President of Government Relations. “Autism Speaks joins Montana’s autism community in calling on the legislature to pass Brandon’s Bill and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”

A hearing is scheduled for Brandon's Bill on Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 9 am in Hearing Room 422 at the state capitol.

Most states 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 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.

Eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. Several other state legislatures will vote on similar legislation during the current session.

Date: 1/30/2009


Autism Insurance Coverage Bill Introduced in Maryland House and Senate
January 29, 2009) - Today, Delegate Kirill Reznik and Senator Kathy Klausmeier, with the strong support of Attorney General Doug Gansler have introduced bills in the House and Senate to ensure that treatment for children with autism is covered by insurers

Annapolis, MS (January 29, 2009) -

Today, Delegate Kirill Reznik and Senator Kathy Klausmeier, with the strong support of Attorney General Doug Gansler, introduced bills in the House and Senate to ensure that treatment for children with autism is covered by insurers.

The “Autism Insurance Coverage” bill will require that insurance companies provide coverage for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, medication, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA is a behavioral therapy which is accepted by most medical authorities as the most effective treatment for Autism. It is estimated that 1 in 142 children in Maryland have a disorder which falls on the Autism Spectrum. Similar versions of this bill have passed in States throughout the country including Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and Texas.

According to Delegate Reznik, the bill’s lead House sponsor, “this bill is necessary to ensure that those families who have a child with autism can obtain the treatment that they need. Time and time again, we have seen that early intervention with treatment makes a tremendous difference in the child’s life. Additionally, having insurance companies cover the cost of this treatment will make a tremendous monetary difference for both the family and the State, but more importantly allows these children and families to enjoy a better quality of life.”  Senator Klausmeier the Senator lead sponsor remarks “I am proud to be the sponsor of this legislation to help the children with autism and their families”.

The bill is supported by a wide group of organizations in addition to Autism Speaks, including the Maryland chapters of the Autism Society of America, Pathfinders for Autism, SEIU 500, Arc of Frederick County, Easter Seals, The Association of University Centers on Disabilities and others. In addition over 50 Delegates have signed on to co-sponsor this bill.

These groups will be having a rally on February 26 at 11:30 am at Lawyers Mall in Annapolis.  Stay tuned for more information in this event!

Date: 1/29/2009


Connecticut Families Participate in the Second Autism Speaks Autism Forum
(January 28, 2009) Crowding the Hall at New Life Church in Meriden, Conn. this past Sunday, families affected by autism all across Connecticut had the opportunity to learn more about what legislative actions were moving towards helping those living with

Meriden, CT (January 28, 2009) - Crowding the Hall at New Life Church in Meriden, Conn. this past Sunday, families affected by autism all across Connecticut had the opportunity to learn more about what  legislative actions were moving towards helping those living with autism.

Moderated by Congressman Chris Murphy (CT-5), panelists included Connecticut State Representative Cathy Abercrombie, Connecticut Department of Developmental Services Autism Coordinator Kathy Reddington, Connecticut Healthcare Advocate and parent to two adults with autism Kevin Lembo and Autism Speaks Regional Director State Advocacy Relations and mother to a son with autism, Judith Ursitti.  Topics ranged from both state and federal autism insurance reform, adult services and job training, state early intervention services, paraprofessional training, teacher training and bullying.  Participants learned of Senate Bill 301 to address state autism insurance reform and President Obama’s plans to include autism in his federal insurance coverage mandate. 

Panelists agreed that there was so too much to discuss in one short session, and encouraged attendees to contact their legislators to encourage their support for autism specific legislation.

Pictured Above 1: Autism Speaks Autism Forum panelists; Representative Cathy Abercrombie, Department of Developmental Services Autism Coordinator Kathy Reddington, Connecticut Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo, Autism Speaks Regional Director State Advocacy Relations Judith Ursitti.

Pictured Above 2: CT Congressman Chris Murphy talks with parents