U.S. House Passes Health Care Reform Bill Containing Provision For Autism Insurance Reform

Washington, DC (March 22, 2010) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today pledged to continue the battle to end insurers’ discrimination against individuals with autism at both the state and federal levels. While praising elements of the Health Care Education and Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 – passed last night by the U.S. House – that could result in improved access to care for individuals with autism and their families, the bill still falls short of eliminating marketplace discrimination for coverage of medically necessary autism treatments. The reconciliation bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.

Through the efforts of Autism Speaks, the autism grassroots community and supporters in Congress, especially Congressman Mike Doyle (PA) in the House and Senators Robert Menendez (NJ) and Chris Dodd (CT) in the Senate, behavioral health treatment is included as part of the essential health benefits package required in certain health plans. Behavioral health treatments were added to ensure that people with autism are provided with insurance coverage of medically necessary, evidence-based behavioral treatments, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.

While the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act will extend autism insurance reform to some families, not all health plans will be required by the bill to cover behavioral health treatment. The reconciliation bill will require the following health plans to offer at least the essential benefits package: (1) plans offered by state-based exchanges, through which individuals and small businesses can purchase coverage; and (2) plans offered in the individual and small group markets outside the exchange. Therefore, while some families affected by autism will be able to receive health insurance coverage for behavioral health treatments, the majority of families will remain without this crucial coverage.

“We are grateful to our supporters in Congress who fought so hard to make sure that families dealing with autism are a part of larger health care reform,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president for programs and services. “Though passage of this bill does not end autism insurance discrimination for all families, Autism Speaks will continue to work for autism insurance reform in state legislatures and in Congress until all those touched by autism no longer face discrimination from the insurance industry.”

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