NEW YORK, NY (January 28, 2011) Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism advocacy organization, today announced its support for House Bill 2693 and Senate Bill 218, the autism insurance reform bills. The legislation would require private group health insurance plans and the West Virginia Public Employee Health plan to provide coverage for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Sponsored in the West Virginia House by State Representative Barbara Evans Fleischauer (District 44 - Monongalia) and in the State Senate by Senator Evan H. Jenkins (District 5 - Cabell) and Acting Senate President Jeffrey V. Kessler (District 2 - Marshall), HB 2693/SB 218 adds autism spectrum disorders to the list of serious mental illnesses for which health insurance coverage parity is required under current West Virginia law. The bill requires that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based, medically-necessary therapy for individuals with autism receive coverage.
"We applaud and thank Representative Fleischauer, and Senators Jenkins and Kessler for their leadership on this issue of critical concern to thousands of West Virginias families," said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president for programs and services. "Autism Speaks joins West Virginias autism community in calling on the legislature to pass HB 2693/SB 218 and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism."
HB 2693 has been passed by the House Judiciary Committee and has been subsequently referred to the House Finance Committee, which is scheduled to hear the bill next week. SB 218 has been referred to the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which will also hear the bill next week.
Many 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.
To date, twenty-three states Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. Several other state legislatures will introduce similar legislation during the current 2011 session.