NEW YORK (April 10, 2012) -- Autism Speaks announced that it is withdrawing its endorsement of Alabama's autism insurance reform legislation, as a result of a newly introduced substitute bill that would provide little or no relief to parents paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for critical treatments. Autism Speaks will continue to work with local advocates, including the Autism Society of Alabama, on pursuing meaningful legislation.
"This is a solution in name only," said Lorri Unumb, Autism Speaks' vice president for state government affairs. "The problem with this new proposal is that it doesn't require coverage, but requires only that insurers 'offer' the benefit, meaning that the cost will not be spread over the entire insurance pool. Under the new proposal, which was crafted by the insurance industry, Alabama families are not guaranteed anything.
"After working hard with Alabama advocates to join 30 other states that have banned autism insurance discrimination, we regret that we must now withdraw our support," she said.
Unumb was responding to an 11th-hour substitute bill for SB.283 introduced in the Alabama Senate that embraces the "mandated offering" concept. Rather than requiring insurers to cover autism screening, diagnosis and evidence-based therapies, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), mandated offering laws only require insurers to "offer" the coverage and then charge an additional or higher premium if the policyholder accepts.
The original Alabama legislation endorsed by Autism Speaks would bar large group health insurance plans in Alabama from refusing to cover the diagnosis and treatment of treatment of autism. The original Senate bill (SB 283) would provide coverage for children through age 9; the original House bill (HB 345) would provide coverage through age 18. ABA treatments would have been covered for up to $50,000 a year.
Autism Speaks has worked with local advocates across the nation to ban autism insurance discrimination in 30 states. The Michigan legislature just enacted such legislation which Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign next week.