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Autism Law Summit Highlights Latest Advances in Insurance Reform

September 10, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC (September 10, 2012) -- Autism Speaks honored the nation's top state-level advocates and highlighted the latest advances in autism insurance reform during the 7th annual Autism Law Summit.

Approximately 100 parents, lawyers and practitioners representing 33 states from Hawaii to New Hampshire attended the three-day event held at the George Washington University Law School.

Increased focus was provided this year on autism coverage under self-funded insurance plans which are not subject to state reform laws, the special circumstances encountered by military families and the impact of the Affordable Care Act. During the summit, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) unveiled its new guidelines for health plan coverage of ABA treatment for autism.

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley delivered the keynote remarks, reflecting on his experiences as a parent of a child with autism, a legislator and now lieutenant governor in winning autism insurance reform in Michigan. Calley in April signed a three-bill package as acting governor that made Michigan the 30th state to enact autism insurance reform.

Calley said he approached autism insurance reform as a taxpayer issue. "We could either do the right thing upfront or pay for it down the road," he said. A critical resource proved to be actuarial studies performed through Autism Speaks which provided "real' cost impact data to counter the inflated claims of the insurance industry.

The autism insurance reform campaign, Calley said, was opposed by a wide array of groups he had never seen before coalesce on one issue. The supporters, on the other hand, were "an amateur ragtag army of advocates" who had to rely on "brute force" to prevail in the Legislature. With autism insurance reform now the law, Calley said, "my theory is that all of this irrational opposition to treating autism will fade away once it gets worked into the system."

Lorri Unumb, Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs, presented Calley with the Executive Champion of the Year Award for his work with the Michigan legislation.

The other award winners were:

Autism Delaware for Advocacy Group of the Year
Lorri Unumb (right) presents award to Kim Siegel, Autism Delaware's policy & walk director, as Shelley Hendrix (left), grassroots advocacy director, and Judith Ursitti, state government affairs director, look on. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation in August in Autism Delaware's Newark office making The First State the 32nd state to enact autism insurance reform.

Virginia Autism Project
Patricia Chandler Taylor accepted the award from Judith Ursitti for VAP's work in 2011 in winning autism insurance refrom in Virginia and continuing this year as it works to assure access to ABA treatment as required under the law.

Also attending the summit for VAP were Theresa Champion and Lavada Robertson.  


Claudia Pringles (Vermont)
A special needs attorney and cochair of the Vermont Autism Task Force, Claudia (left) accepting award from Judith Ursitti, helped win the enactment in 2012 of legislation expanding coverage under the state's existing law, raising the age cap for receiving benefits from 6 to 21. The Vermont law was one of three expansion bills that succeeded in 2012; the others weere Louisiana and Rhode Island.   


Mirella Peterson (Utah Autism Coalition)

As president of the Utah Autism Coalition, Mirella earlier this year led a powerful coalition of Utah families in a legislative campaign for autism insurance reform. Mirella (front left) is shown with (counter-clockwise)Shelley Hendricks, Judith Ursitti, Lorri Unumb and Mike Wasmer, associate director of state government affairs. shown with