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Autism Speaks Hails Gov. Cuomo, N.Y. Legislature for Reaching Agreement on Landmark Autism Insurance Reform Bill

June 23, 2011

NEW YORK, N.Y. (June 23, 2011) – Autism Speaks applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature for reaching final agreement on a bill that will require insurance companies to provide coverage of critical autism therapies for both children and adults. An amended bill (A.8512) reflecting the agreement was voted out of the Legislature today and will be sent to Governor Cuomo for his signature.

When enacted, the bill will apply not only to New Yorkers who work for companies with state-regulated health plans, but to families nationwide who work for those same New York-based companies. It also applies to New Yorkers who purchase insurance on the individual market as well as New York state employees. The bill, when signed, would make New York the 27th state to adopt an autism insurance law.

Sponsored in the New York Assembly by Assemblymember Joseph Morelle (D-Monroe) and in the Senate by Sen. Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Nassau,) the bill (A.8512/S.5845) includes coverage of behavioral health treatments, such as ABA therapy. Under the compromise agreement hammered out between the Governor and the Legislature, up to $45,000 a year in ABA treatments would be covered and the effective date for the new law would be 12 months after enactment. The bill was voted out of the Senate Wednesday night and the Assembly today.

 "This law will be a life-saver not only for families who live in New York, but also for families all around the nation who work for New York-based companies,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks.

 “We applaud Governor Cuomo for standing with the families of New York,” Wright said. “Another leader might have stepped aside, and said that it was not worth the effort to end the discrimination we have lived with for so long. But Governor Cuomo stepped forward to work with Assemblymember Joe Morelle and Senator Chuck Fuschillo. We owe them all a debt of deep gratitude.”

A fiscal analysis conducted for Autism Speaks found the legislation would save New York state taxpayers $13 million over six years by reducing Medicaid, early intervention, special education and OPWDD costs.

Senator Fuschillo said, "This law will be a giant step forward towards helping families with autism get the care they need. No longer will these families be forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year paying for autism treatments and therapies which their insurance companies refuse to cover. Finally, they will have exactly what they deserve; access to treatment coverage just like any other condition and protection from being denied services solely because of an autism diagnosis. I am pleased that we were able to work together to make this a reality."

Assemblymember Morelle said, "With this agreement, we achieve a genuine milestone for those affected by autism while at the same time recognizing the need to control new costs created by insurance mandates. For far too long, families with a child on the autism spectrum have faced financial and emotional uncertainty because proven treatments and therapies were not covered under their policies. Today, some of that uncertainty has been removed. I am deeply grateful to the governor and to my colleagues in the legislature for their partnership in this effort."

New York is one of 24 states that do not require private insurance companies to cover even essential autism treatments and services. As a result, families paying thousands of dollars a year for health insurance receive no benefits in return for autism-related expenses, forcing them to 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.

Every state surrounding New York – Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Vermont – has enacted autism insurance reform legislation. So far in 2011, bills have been signed into law in Arkansas, Virginia and West Virginia, and a similar reform measure won legislative approval in Rhode Island this week. Rhode Island is the only other Northeast state yet to enact reform.