NEW YORK (April 15, 2011) -- Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today denounced the Arizona legislature's passage of a bill that would essentially repeal enacted autism insurance reform legislation and force hundreds of families to once again pay tens of thousands of dollars a year out-of-pocket for critical autism diagnoses and treatments -- even though they already have health insurance coverage. The organization called on the entire autism community, nationwide, to contact Governor Jan Brewers office and urge her to veto the legislation.
Senate Bill 1593 allows employers to purchase health plans outside of Arizona, thereby using plans that do not have to follow Arizonas insurance laws. An amendment to the bill waives Arizonas 32 existing insurance mandates, including the requirement that insurers cover autism treatments. Arizona would become the first state to repeal autism insurance reform legislation. West Virginia recently became the 25th state to enact such legislation, and several other states have bills pending.
This legislation is a slap in the face to thousands of Arizona families who are paying for health insurance coverage, but will be denied the very services they need the most, said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. If this legislation becomes law, many families will face impossible decisions from taking out second and third mortgages to emptying siblings college funds to provide their children with treatments they need and deserve. Or, they simply may be forced to abandon therapies altogether. Everyone who is outraged by this legislation should email (www.azgovernor.gov/contact.asp) or call Governor Brewer at (602) 542-4331 and tell her to veto this bill immediately.
Arizonas Stevens Law, enacted in 2008, requires insurers to cover up to $50,000 a year for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for children until age nine, and $25,000 a year for children until age sixteen. It covers therapy for children whose diagnoses reflect the full range of the autism spectrum. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Surgeon General, among others, as an effective, evidence-based treatment for children with autism.
The therapy provided under Stevens law has given hope back to our family and allowed us to look forward to our son being a productive and contributing member of the community someday, said Melissa Shah, a Phoenix parent. My child has been receiving these services for over a year and his development has improved dramatically. Losing this insurance coverage would be catastrophic for him.
In many states, health insurance policies explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies , placing a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services.