NEW YORK, NY (April 3, 2009) -- Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today joined the New Mexico autism community to praise New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for signing into law Senate Bill 39, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies. The Governor signed the bill yesterday, in honor of World Autism Awareness day, making New Mexico the ninth state in the country to enact comprehensive autism insurance reform.
The New Mexico law requires insurers to cover up to $36,000 a year for treatments and therapies, including Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for children until age nineteen, or age twenty-two if the individual is enrolled in high school. It also sets a maximum lifetime coverage limit of $200,000. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is recognized as an effective, evidence-based treatment for children with autism. The law specifies that there cannot be any limit put on the number of visits to an autism service provider and that the maximum per year benefit will be adjusted annually for inflation.
So many New Mexican families with autistic children cant afford to pay for therapy and medical services out of pocket -- this bill will help ease the costs for those dealing with autism spectrum disorder, said Governor Richardson. While most health insurance policies have significant limitations on treatment, New Mexico will now have a law in place that will give people living with autism, the benefits they deserve.
"This is a great day for the thousands of New Mexico families who now know their children will finally get the treatments they need and deserve," said Elizabeth Emken, vice president of government relations. Legislatures across the country are introducing and passing bills that put an end to the discriminatory practices by insurance companies against children with an autism diagnosis. We thank New Mexico's legislators and Governor Richardson for having the courage to put families and their needs first."
In many states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services. New Mexico joins eight other states Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas that have passed similar autism insurance reform bills. Twenty-six states have introduced bills this year, and New Mexico is the first to pass.
Senate Bill 39 was sponsored by State Senator Clinton D. Harden (R-7) in the New Mexico State Senate. A similar bill, House Bill 155, was introduced by State Representative Joni Marie Gutierrez (D-33).
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