NEW YORK, NY (May 15, 2009) Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today applauded the introduction of the groundbreaking Autism Treatment Acceleration Act (ATAA) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Introduced by Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA), Chris Smith (D-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Hank Johnson (D-GA), ATAA is comprehensive federal legislation that addresses several critical challenges facing the autism community, including increased funding for scientific research, treatment and services. The House ATAA bill was introduced yesterday as a companion to the bill introduced in the Senate last month by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The ATAA incorporates provisions from the Expanding the Promise of Individuals with Autism Act (EPIAA) originally proposed in the House by Representatives Doyle, Smith, Engel, and former-Representative Chip Pickering (R-MS).
As in the Senates ATAA bill, a key section of the House bill requires insurance companies to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy a medically necessary, evidence-based autism treatment and assistive communication devices. In most states, insurers are currently allowed to specifically exclude coverage for these critical services, which can cost upward of $50,000 a year well beyond the means of most families.
This legislation would dramatically increase the federal governments commitment to addressing the challenges faced by individuals with autism and their families, said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks vice president of Government Relations. The insurance reform section of the bill, in particular, will have an enormous impact by finally requiring insurers to end discrimination against children with autism and cover therapies that are literally causing families across the country to go broke trying to provide their children with the services they need and deserve.
To help address the unique needs of adults with ASDs, the bill would create a demonstration project with one-year planning grants and multi-year implementation grants for the provision of service for adults with autism. These services would address important issues such as education and employment, housing, nutrition and wellness, social activities, and transportation and personal safety.
A National Network for Autism Spectrum Disorders Research and Services would be created to maximize existing autism treatment and service capacity and to strengthen linkages between autism research and services initiatives at the federal, regional, state, and local levels. The network would act to expedite the dissemination of critical data and evidence-based or promising practices. These initiatives are aimed at accelerating the dissemination and utilization of critical, new information, moving it from bench to bedside as quickly as possible.
The Autism Treatment Acceleration Act would codify important commitments made by candidate and now-President Obama to support individuals with autism, their families and communities, said Bob Wright, co-Founder of Autism Speaks. Now it is incumbent on our Congressmembers and Senators to step up and support this legislation, which has the potential to dramatically and directly impact the millions of Americans whose lives have been affected by this disorder.
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