NEW YORK, NY (June 2, 2009) -- Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today applauded Senator Kristen Gillibrands (D-NY) introduction of the Uniformed Services with Autism (USA) Heroes Act, a senate companion bill to H.R. 1600. The legislation would require expanded coverage by TRICARE -- the Department of Defense's health care program for members of the uniformed services and their families -- of medically necessary autism therapies for military dependents who have autism.
Current law limits TRICARE coverage of autism therapies, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, for dependents of active duty service members and places a $3,000 monthly cap on a childs treatment program. The USA Heroes Act will remove the dollar cap and increase accessibility of ABA and other essential, medically necessary autism treatments by extending benefits to retirees.
H.R. 1600 was introduced by Representatives Joe Sestak (D-PA), Walter B. Jones (R-NC), and Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX).
"We commend Senator Gillibrand for her commitment to individuals with autism and their families, and for making expanded autism insurance coverage a legislative priority," said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. "Families across the country are literally going broke trying to provide their children with the therapies they need and deserve. Now is the time for private and public insurers alike to end discrimination against children with autism and cover these critical services."
This legislation is an important complement to successful, ongoing state and federal efforts to ensure that every American child with autism has access to medically-necessary, evidence-based therapies, said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks vice president of government relations.
The USA Heroes Act is part of a three-part plan Senator Gillibrand announced this week that also includes her co-sponsorship of the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act, which would require private insurers to provide coverage of medically-necessary autism treatments. In many states, insurers explicitly exclude such coverage from their policies. The Senator also called for increased federal investment in autism research by allocating a portion of the additional $10 billion given to the National Institute of Health (NIH) under the President Obamas Economic Recovery plan.
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