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Autism Speaks, Washington, DC Councilmembers Tommy Wells And Muriel Bowser Announce Introduction Of 2009 Autism Insurance Reform Bill

November 16, 2009

Washington, DC (November 16, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, and Washington, DC Councilmember Tommy Wells today joined Councilmember Muriel Bowser, families of children with autism, and autism care advocates to announce the introduction of legislation to reform health insurance for children with autism in the District.

Titled the “Health Insurance Coverage for Children with Autism Act of 2009,” the bill will create better access to care, better access to treatments and therapies, and create new requirements for insurance companies to provide expanded benefits up to $55,000 per year.

"“The introduction of the autism insurance reform bill in the DC Council is another significant step forward in the national effort to secure autism insurance coverage across the country and provide families with the help they so desperately need and deserve,"” said Stuart Spielman, Autism Speaks Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel. “"We thank Councilmember Wells and Councilmember Bowser for having the courage to put families and their needs first.”"

Councilmember Wells stated, “This legislation will dramatically expand health insurance benefits for children with autism. It’s the right thing for our families and our children.” He added, “Expanding access to early diagnosis and therapies can make all the difference in the life of a child with autism.”

Councilmembers Wells and Bowser were joined by DC families with children with autism, as well as local and national autism care advocates.

The new law will help families diagnose and find treatment and therapies for autism spectrum disorders. In many cases, insurance plans cover some, but not all, of the therapies needed to help children develop, maintain or restore a variety of functions. The lack of coverage forces families to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for the care their child needs, and often leaves low and middle income families the unacceptable choice of simply going without care.

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 $55,000 per year. In the process, many risk their homes and the educations of their unaffected children – essentially mortgaging their entire futures.

To date, fifteen states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin -- have enacted this legislation. An amendment that requires coverage of behavioral health treatments has also been added to the health care reform bills currently moving through Congress.