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Autism Speaks Endorses 2010 New York Senate Bill That Would End Insurance Discrimination Against Children With Autism

March 08, 2010

NEW YORK, NY (March 8, 2010) – Autism Speaks, the nation’'s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today endorsed S.7000, which would require insurance companies to end discriminatory practices and provide coverage of evidence-based, clinically-proven autism therapies for many of New York’'s residents living with autism and potentially thousands more. Fifteen states have already enacted autism insurance reform measures, with legislation pending in approximately two dozen additional states.
The bill – co-sponsored by Senators Neil Breslin (Albany County) and Thomas Duane (Manhattan), as well as Senator Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (Nassau County) – would require private health insurance companies to cover the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Such treatment would include interventions prescribed by a doctor that are evidence-based and clinically-proven. In addition to providing coverage for physical health problems that frequently occur with autism such as sleep abnormalities, seizures and gastrointestinal problems, the bill would cover other treatments such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral health treatments (including applied behavior analysis) for individuals of any age that are affected by autism.
“Parents across New York and around the country are paying for health insurance that denies them the services they need the most,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “Families are literally going broke trying to give children the therapies they need and deserve to meet their full potential. It’s time that we eliminate this unfair burden and end insurers’ blatant discrimination against children with autism.”
“This bill has the potential to be one of the most comprehensive autism insurance laws in the country,” said Peter Bell, executive vice president of programs & services for Autism Speaks. ”It provides coverage for treatments for individuals with autism throughout their lifespan. Furthermore, since many national and regional companies are headquartered in New York, this legislation has the potential to extend to thousands of individuals across the country thereby having a major impact on the national autism community.”
Most states do not require private insurance companies to cover even essential autism treatments and services. In the absence of coverage, families often pay as much as they can out-of-pocket for services that can cost upwards of $50,000 per year. In the process, many risk their homes and the educations of their unaffected children – essentially mortgaging their entire futures.
"I want to thank Senators Breslin, Duane and Fuschillo for having the courage to come together on this important legislation that will help so many families in New York State, like mine," said Michael Giangregorio, a parent and autism advocate from Long Island. "We cannot wait another moment for an end to autism insurance discrimination.”
S.7000 has broad bipartisan support in the New York Senate. To date, 36 Senators, including those who have championed autism and other children’s causes for many years, have already stepped forward to become cosponsors of the bill.
“The legislation I’m sponsoring, along with many of my Senate colleagues, is a strong recognition that the increasing prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders represents a significant health and financial challenge for many New York families, said Senator Breslin, Chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee. “National statistics now reveal that fully 1 in 110 children are affected by autism. Requiring that autism be covered under health insurance policies regulated by New York State will mean peace of mind for thousands of New York families and lower long-term costs to society.”
"By requiring private health insurers to pay for certain treatments of autism spectrum disorders, this legislation is both responsive and responsible," said Senator Duane, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. "This innovative legislation, which I am proud to co-prime, mandates that New York State identify interventions that are evidence-based and clinically effective and requires that insurance companies pay for those services. It is a vital step forward for those on the autism spectrum, and their families, as they manage multiple health services, therapies and treatments."
“Many families who have a child with autism are literally facing financial ruin just to get care for their child, because their health insurance company does not cover the treatment costs,” said Senator Fuschillo. “This legislation would ensure that these clinically proven treatments are covered by insurance and put an end to parents being forced to choose between going broke or getting treatment for their child with autism.”