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State Assembly Joins Senate In Unanimously Passing Landmark Bill Prohibiting Insurance Discrimination Against New York Individuals With Autism

June 21, 2010

NEW YORK, NY (June 21, 2010) - Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today applauded the unanimous passage of landmark legislation that will require New York-based insurance policies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically-necessary treatment for individuals with autism, and called on Governor David Paterson to immediately sign the bill into law. The legislation received overwhelming bi-partisan support, with a 61-0 vote in the Senate and 132-0 vote in the Assembly. Twenty-one states have already enacted autism insurance reform measures.

The Assembly bill (A.10372) passed today -- introduced by Assemblyman Joe Morelle and co-sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver -- requires private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Such treatment would include interventions prescribed by a doctor that are evidence-based and clinically-proven. In addition to providing coverage for physical health problems that frequently occur with autism, such as sleep abnormalities, seizures and gastrointestinal problems, the bill would cover speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral health treatments (including Applied Behavior Analysis) and other treatments for individuals of any age who are affected by autism.

"This legislation is an important reminder of what our elected officials can and will do to help New York's families," said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. "Families here and around the country are literally going broke trying to give children the therapies they need and deserve to meet their full potential. It's time that we eliminate this unfair burden and end insurance discrimination in every state in America."

"This legislation has the potential to be one of the most comprehensive autism insurance laws in the country," said Peter Bell, executive vice president of programs and services for Autism Speaks. "Now it is up to Governor Paterson to sign this landmark bill into law and alleviate the hardship endured by tens of thousands of New York families affected by autism."

In many states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services. ABA therapies alone may cost upward of $50,000 a year.