HARRISBURG, PA (July 17, 2007) – Autism Speaks today lauded Speaker Dennis O'Brien and his colleagues in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for passing landmark autism legislation and called on the State Senate to follow suit. The bill (HB 1150), introduced by the Speaker, would create a new “Autism Spectrum Disorders Coverage” provision of the Pennsylvania insurance law. This provision would require private insurers to provide coverage of up to $36,000 annually for essential treatments for individuals with autism, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), and other structured behavioral programs.
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 Applied Behavioral Analysis services, and other structured behavioral programs, that can cost upwards of $50,000 per year, often risking their homes and the educations of their unaffected children – essentially mortgaging their entire futures. Coverage for these treatments will add less than 1 percent to the cost of an annual policy.
“Speaker O'Brien's tremendous leadership has brought us to the brink of an important legislative breakthrough,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks vice president of government relations. “This legislation would help alleviate the tremendous financial burden Pennsylvania families face as they struggle to provide the best possible services for their children with autism. The fact is that the private health insurance system must begin to absorb some of this expense. A victory here in Pennsylvania will hopefully serve as a blueprint for similar legislative action in other states across the country.”
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, 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 www.autismspeaks.org.