Vermont Governor Douglas Signs Autism Insurance Reform Bill Into Law

NEW YORK, NY (May 28, 2010) -- Autism Speaks yesterday joined Vermont families and other autism advocacy organizations in applauding Governor Jim Douglas for signing S. 262, the autism insurance reform bill, into law. S. 262 will require insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary early intervention autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.

The Vermont Senate passed a version of this bill in March, requiring only a study of the autism insurance reform issue. Amendments to S. 262 were then proposed in the House to expand the bill to require private health insurance companies governed by the state, as well as Medicaid plans, to provide coverage of early intervention therapies for children with autism between the ages of 18 months and 6 years old. The amended version also requires a study of autism insurance reform for children older than 6 years to be performed. The final bill was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate earlier this month.

"This is a great day for the thousands of Vermont families that had been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for necessary autism therapies," said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “Legislatures across the country are introducing and passing bills that put an end to the discriminatory practices by insurance companies against children with an autism diagnosis. We thank Vermont's legislators and Governor Douglas for having the courage to put families and their needs first."

“I extend sincere gratitude for all the support and teamwork amongst all the advocates in our autism community,” said Ron Marcellus, co-chair of the Private Insurance Subcommittee of the Vermont Autism Task Force. “It was truly a statewide effort of all the stakeholders coming together with one voice to make this significant step to improve the lives of our children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. “

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. In addition to Vermont, nineteen other states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin – have enacted similar autism insurance reform bills.