NEW YORK, NY (March 3, 2011) Autism Speaks joined Arkansas families yesterday in applauding the members of the Senate for their unanimous passage of House Bill 1315, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA). The bill now heads to Governor Mike Beebes desk to be enacted into law.
Sponsored in the Arkansas House by State Representative Uvalde Lindsey (District 88) and escorted through the Senate by Senator Mary Anne Salmon, HB 1315 includes coverage of behavioral health treatments, such as ABA therapy. The bill also includes a maximum benefit for ABA therapy of up to $50,000 annually until the individual reaches age 18.
"Autism Speaks applauds the members of the Arkansas Senate for passing HB 1315, which will extend a helping hand to families that have been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for necessary autism therapies," said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. "We are grateful for the leadership of Representative Lindsey and Senator Salmon on this issue and now call on Governor Beebe to sign this bill into law, allowing Arkansas to join the ranks of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on families of children with autism."
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.
Passing HB 1315 is a great step forward for the children and families who suffer from autism, said Representative Lindsey. Credit goes to those who made calls and wrote emails to their Representatives urging them to vote in favor of this bill. I am so proud of my colleagues in the House who voted for this bill and it is an honor to serve the autism community to ensure that all our kids get the services they need to get well. This bill is great for Arkansas and great for the nation.
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.
We are thrilled with the vote today and so grateful to the Representatives and Senators who supported this initiative. I personally have never felt as proud of my state as I am today, said Dianna Varady, Autism Speaks Arkansas Chapter Advocacy Chair. This is a testament to all the hard work families around Arkansas have dedicated to the cause of finally ending insurance discrimination against individuals with autism. Without their dogged determination, this victory would not have been possible.