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2014 Hawai'i Insurance Bill Gets Off To Fast Start

January 28, 2014

HONOLULU (January 28, 2014) -- A 2014 Hawai'i autism insurance reform bill was voted out of two Senate committees yesterday with amendments sought by Autism Speaks to strengthen its provisions.

Sponsored by Senators Josh Green, Suzanne Chun Oakland and Russell Ruderman, the bill SB.2054 was voted out of the Senate's Health, and Commerce and Consumer Protection committees. It would require state-regulated health plans to cover up to $50,000 a year for the screening, diagnosis and evidence-based treatment, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), of autism up to age 21.

Amendments sought by Autism Speaks to protect the state from potential cost-triggering requirements under the Affordable Care Act, allowing the use of supervised staff to provide ABA, and other changes were approved by the committees. A competing bill opposed by Autism Speaks, SB.2578, was held by the lawmakers, led by Sen. Rosalyn Baker [right], who chairs the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.  

Mike Wasmer, Autism Speaks' associate director of state government affairs, commended Hawai'i's autism community for providing strong testimony to the committee that helped improve the bill.

In addition to ABA treatment, the bill would require coverage for autism-related psychiatric, psychological, pharmaceutical and therapeutic care, such as speech, occupational and physical therapy.

Hawaii is one of the few remaining states yet to require state-regulated health plans to cover essential autism treatments and services. Without coverage, families often pay as much as they can out-of-pocket for services that can cost $50,000 or more per year. In the process, many risk their homes and the educations of their unaffected children, and in many cases face bankruptcy.

Minnesota, Oregon and the District of Columbia enacted reform laws last year; bills this year are being considered in Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and other states.