NEW YORK, NY (June 22, 2011) Autism Speaks joins Rhode Island families in applauding the members of the House for their 71-2 vote yesterday in support of House Bill 5275, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA.)
A companion bill (SB 107) was voted out of the Senate unanimously last week. Once the Senate and House concur on each other's measure, the bill will go to Gov. Lincoln Chafee for his signature to make Rhode Island the 27th state to enact such a law.
Sponsored in the Rhode Island House by Rep. Peter Palumbo (D-16,) HB 5275 includes coverage of behavioral health treatments, such as ABA therapy. The bill, as amended, requires coverage for individuals up to age 15, with an annual ABA benefit of $32,000.
"Autism Speaks applauds the members of the Rhode Island House for passing HB 5275, 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 Palumbo, as well as Senator Edward ONeill and Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed. We now call on Governor Chafee to sign the bill into law, allowing Rhode Island 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.
"Rhode Island must do what it can to ensure that autistic children receive the treatment they need in order to combat the disorder," said Representative Palumbo, who chairs a legislative commission which has been studying the education of children with autism since 2009. "Coverage will break down barriers to necessary services which, for the most severely affected, can cost $50,000 a year or more."
To date, 26 states, including every state surrounding Rhode Island, have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. The last remaining state in the Northeast, New York, has also moved a bill though the legislature which awaits final action in Albany.
To learn more about Autism Votes, an initiative of Autism Speaks focused on federal and state legislative advocacy, please visit www.autismvotes.org.