BATON ROUGE (JUNE 28, 2012) -- Governor Bobby Jindal signed legislation today expanding Louisiana's 2008 autism insurance reform law by raising the age cap to 21 and eliminating the $144,000 cap on lifetime benefits. Families paying thousands of dollars a year in insurance premiums will be able starting in 2013 to continue coverage for the screening, diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for individuals aged 16 through 20.
Sponsored in the Louisiana House of Representatives by Rep. Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge), the bill eliminates any ceiling on lifetime benefits. Under the 2008 law, coverage ended once lifetime claims reach $144,000. In addition, the new law eliminates the current requirement that treatments be supervised by a physician or psychologist. A $36,000 annual cap on benefits is retained, but coverage was expanded to include firms with 10 employees or less. The current threshold exempted business with 50 employees or less.
"We are so grateful to Representative Foil for demonstrating his dedicated leadership on this extremely important issue for the autism community," said Shelley Hendrix Reynolds, Autism Speaks' director of grassroots development. "He promised us four years ago he would come back to expand Act 648 and did just that. Thankfully, the Louisiana legislature and Governor Jindal overwhelmingly and unanimously supported his efforts once again." (Shelley's daughter, Mairin, joins Governor Jindal at the signing)
Noting that the prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in every 88 children since the oprigional law was enacted, Hendrix said the new law "will open even more doors for so many of our families who have children with autism that deserve access to the medical treatments and therapies they need to live more independent adult lives."
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.
A majority of states (31) representing nearly 75 percent of the United States population have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. Vermont enacted a similar exapnsion bill earlier this year making autism insuranmce benefits more widely avialable to its residents, and Delaware is about to enact legislation making it the 32nd state to enact autism insurance reform.