NEW YORK, NY (October 21, 2010) – Autism Speaks today joined with tens of thousands of families and advocates across New York State to express extreme disappointment in Governor David Paterson's veto of landmark autism insurance reform legislation – passed unanimously by the state legislature – and challenged the cost projections cited by the governor in justifying his decision. The organization immediately began conferring with key legislative allies to determine a course of action, which could include a call for a post-election session of the legislature and an override effort.
“Today is a sad day for tens of thousands of people with autism and their families, the result of a misguided fiscal decision that will actually cost taxpayers untold millions of dollars in the coming years,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “This is a significant setback, but it is far from the end of the battle. We will not stop fighting until every child with autism in New York State has access to the treatments they need and deserve.”
The legislation – co-sponsored in the State Senate by Senators Neil Breslin and Thomas Duane, as well as Charles Fuschillo, Jr., and in the Assembly by Assemblyman Joe Morelle and Speaker Sheldon Silver – received overwhelming bi-partisan support, with unanimous passage in both the State Senate and Assembly.
“We urge the autism community to call Governor Paterson (518-474-8390) and express their disappointment,” said Peter Bell, executive vice president of programs and services for Autism Speaks. “Contact your State Senator and Assemblymember and insist that they see through their commitment to the enactment of this critical legislation and call for an override.” (visit Autism Votes to find your local legislator)
The governor's veto memo stated that his decision was based purely on fiscal considerations and not the legislation's merits. The memo, though, cited inaccurate costs projections. Actuarial reports have concluded that the actual costs to the state and local municipalities would be negligible during the first year and no more than $30 million once fully implemented. Moreover, private insurance policyholders would see minor premium increases of less than 0.65% – far less than the inflated figures included in the memo.
Twenty-three states have already enacted legislation to end insurance companies' discrimination against people with autism. Governor Paterson is only the second governor in the United States to veto such legislation, joining South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who vetoed Ryan's Law in June, 2007. The S.C. legislature subsequently overrode Sanford's veto and Ryan's Law was enacted.
To learn more about Autism Votes, an initiative of Autism Speaks focused on federal and state legislative advocacy, please visit www.autismvotes.org.
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006. 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 North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception only five short years ago, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $142.5 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families through 2014. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks also supports the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council which has received over $249 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a community grant program and much more. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.
About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks 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, Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, RAND Corporation and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards such as the CHILD Magazine Children's Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women's Division and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism advocacy.