TRENTON, NJ (June 18, 2009) Autism Speaks today joined New Jersey families, Autism New Jersey, and other autism advocacy organizations in applauding the members of the State Senate for passing S-1651, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies. The bill passed the New Jersey Senate today in a vote of 35-0 and now heads back to the State Assembly for concurrence.
S-1651 is sponsored by Senators Joseph Vitale and Loretta Weinberg and will require insurance companies to provide coverage of autism therapies, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, for individuals under age twenty-one up to a maximum of $36,000 per year. The Assembly version of the bill, A. 2238, was passed on May 14 and is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, Assemblywoman Joan Voss and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto. Last month, Autism Speaks Co-Founder, Bob Wright, testified at committee hearings on both the Senate and Assembly bills.
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.
"With the passage of this legislation in both the Assembly and Senate, New Jersey stands on the threshold to joining the ranks of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on families of children with autism," said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks vice president for government relations. "Autism insurance reform has gained significant national momentum this year. Legislatures across the country have introduced and passed bills that put an end to the discriminatory practices by insurance companies against children with an autism diagnosis."
Thirteen states Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. Some two dozen other state legislatures introduced similar legislation during the 2009 session.
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