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Autism Speaks Announces Multi-State Insurance Legislation Campaign

Florida, California, Michigan and Pennsylvania are Key Battlegrounds in Effort to Change Insurance Laws and Require Coverage of Medically Necessary Services

PALM BEACH, FL (December 27, 2007) – Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism advocacy organization, will undertake a multi-state initiative to pass insurance coverage provisions for autism services, it was announced today by Co-Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright. Expanding on Autism Speaks' ongoing advocacy work in Pennsylvania, the 2008 initiative will extend to Florida, California and Michigan, battleground states in the effort to compel commercial insurers to cover evidence-based, medically necessary therapies and services for individuals with autism.

Autism Speaks leadership will begin conversations with Governor Charlie Crist and key members of the Florida legislature in a bi-partisan effort to address the insurance coverage issue in Florida. According to the most recent Department of Education statistics, Florida ranks sixth in the United States in the number of children receiving services for 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. Autism Speaks, together with other autism advocacy groups, is working to change state insurance laws to require private health insurance policies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for individuals under the age of 21.

The insurance legislation supported by Autism Speaks specifically targets coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other structured behavioral therapies, which are the most effective forms of treatment and have the best outcomes, both in human costs and in long-term economic benefits. Nationwide, few private insurance companies or other employee benefit plans cover Applied Behavior Analysis and other behavioral therapies. In fact, most insurance companies designate autism as a diagnostic exclusion, meaning that no autism-specific services are covered, even those that would be used to treat other conditions.

“It's time for insurance companies to step up and assume some of the financial burden now shouldered by families and school districts,” said Bob Wright. “The autism community is mobilized and determined to go state-by-state state and knock on every legislator's door until these unreasonable insurance laws are changed. It's time to remove these barriers to care.”

“Families across the country are going broke as they struggle to provide their children with the services they need and deserve,” added Suzanne Wright. “A family should not have to choose between getting necessary therapies for their child and making their mortgage payments.”

Autism Speaks has outlined eight arguments in support of private insurance coverage of autism-related services – based on importance, efficacy, and costs associated with autism insurance coverage -- in the document Arguments in Support of Private Insurance Coverage of Autism-Related Services. It can be found here:

Three states – South Carolina, Texas and Indiana – have already passed autism insurance legislation that specifically requires private insurance companies to provide coverage of ABA and other structured behavioral treatments.

Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman, General Electric, and served as chief executive officer of NBC for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks has merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit /.