Unprecedented Week for Autism Insurance Reform As Three More States Act To End Discrimination Against Children With Autism

Washington, DC (April 2, 2010) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today joined with grassroots advocates to celebrate the passage of three more state autism insurance reform bills this week in Iowa, Kansas, and Kentucky. The effort to end autism insurance discrimination nationwide has gained new momentum with these recent victories, combined with President Obama’s enactment this week of the Health Care Education and Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, which contains a provision including behavioral health treatment as part of the essential benefits package required in certain health plans.

Enactment of the three state bills – which first must be signed into law by their respective governors – would bring the total number of states that require health insurance companies to provide coverage for comprehensive autism treatment to eighteen. The Kentucky bill would require all state regulated health plans to provide coverage of autism therapies, while the Iowa and Kansas bills would require only the state health employee plan to provide coverage in a test track format before expanding to other types of health plans. At least two more states are expected to pass similar bills in the coming weeks.

The addition of Health Care Reform at the federal level extends access to behavioral health treatment to some families affected by autism and helps further chip away at the insurance industry’s policy of discrimination against those with an autism diagnosis. However, since current autism insurance legislation provides coverage for approximately 20% of the population, additional work remains to be done. Autism Speaks pledges to continue to advocate for autism insurance reform for all those affected by autism spectrum disorder both in Congress and in state legislatures across the country.

“Passage of these new bills in Iowa, Kansas, and Kentucky, along with the final enactment of a federal health care reform measure, add significant victories to the national effort to secure autism insurance coverage in all fifty states and provide families with the help they so desperately need,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks Executive Vice President for Programs and Services. “We must continue to fight until every individual has access to medically necessary autism therapies and families are no longer forced to mortgage their futures, or even worse, forego treatment altogether.”

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.

Fifteen states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. More than twenty other state legislatures may vote on similar legislation this year.