NEW YORK, NY (July 9, 2008) -- Autism Speaks today commended Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell for signing into law the most comprehensive autism insurance bill in the nation. The new law provides $36,000 a year for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other necessary treatments, and goes beyond many state insurance reform measures by mandating coverage up to age 21 with no lifetime cap. It also creates, for the first time under Pennsylvania law, an expedited appeals procedure for denied claims as a safeguard to ensure compliance by insurance providers. Private insurers will be required to provide coverage beginning in July 2009.
In addition, the legislation turns the existing state welfare program for autism into a statutory requirement, ensuring that those who receive government-provided services can continue to do so. It also allows for the development of a private sector delivery system with insurance reimbursement, offering families an alternative to coverage through Medicaid.
Autism Speaks also praised the elected officials whose support of this legislation was critical to its passage, including: original co-sponsors House Speaker Dennis O'Brien and Senator Jane Orie; Rep. Nick Micozzie and Rep. Tony DeLuca, chairmen of the House Insurance Committee;Senator Don White, chairman, and Senator Mike Stack, minority chairman, of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee; and Senators Dominic Pileggi, Joseph Scarnati and Robert Mellow.
"This law will have a significant impact on Pennsylvania families' ability to provide their children with the services they need and deserve,” said Elizabeth Emken,Autism Speaks vice president of government relations. “Governor Rendell and Pennsylvania's legislators have sent a clear message that discriminatory practices by insurers against individuals with autism and their families must come to an end.”
Autism insurance reform legislation has now been enacted in eight states across the country, with many others currently considering legislative action. Last week, Louisiana became the latest state to address the tremendous financial burden faced by families affected by autism when Governor Bobby Jindal signed House Bill 958 into law.
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.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks merged with the Autism Coalition for Research and Education (ACRE), the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.