(ABOVE: Hawaii autism insurance reform advocates including Luke Pinnow and his mother Geri)
HONOLULU, HI- Hawaii Governor David Ige has signed a landmark autism insurance reform bill, making Hawaii the 42nd state to require certain health insurance plans to cover treatment for autism spectrum disorders.
SB 791, sponsored by Senator Josh Green (D-Kohala/Kona), requires state-regulated insurance plans to cover medically necessary treatment for autism including behavioral health treatment, psychiatric, psychological, pharmaceutical and therapeutic care. The legislation also requires plans to cover applied behavior analysis (ABA) with a maximum of $25,000 per year through 13 years of age.
“With passage of Act 235, children with autism now have a better chance at receiving the services and treatment to help them thrive and lead healthier lives here in Hawaii. This bill represents the work of many advocates, and Hawaii proudly joins other states that recognize the importance of providing access to health care services for those living with autism,” said State Representative Della Au Belatti.
"Luke's Law will have a more positive and direct impact on people's lives in Hawaii than any other bill that we passed this year. The thousands of people in Hawaii with autism have better lives, and their families and friends will get to watch them thrive,” said State Senator Josh Green, M.D.
Earlier this month, Governor Ige enacted SB 40, which requires licensure of behavior analysts and funds the implementation of a Behavior Analyst board. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the leading treatment to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior for individuals with autism.
“This has truly been a banner year for families with autism in Hawaii,” said Lorri Unumb, Vice President, State Government Affairs for the national group Autism Speaks. “We are eternally grateful for the leadership of Senator Green, Representative Belatti, Senator Roz Baker, and for the many hours put in by autism moms and dads and siblings throughout Hawaii. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the therapists who work with our children day-in and day-out; they really rolled up their sleeves and helped get this bill across the finish line.”
The insurance bill is named for Luke Pinnow, a teenage boy with autism who has been the face of the effort in recent years. Luke testified in support of the bill multiple times and met with dozens of legislators to share how autism affects his life. His mom, Geri, also testified about the different path Luke might now be on if treatment had been available to Luke through health insurance when he was younger.
After the bill signing, Luke said, "I worked really hard on this law, thank you for signing it (Governor) David Y. Ige, now kids with Autism can get help!"
Families impacted by autism in Hawaii also recently celebrated the enactment of, HB 119, ABLE Savings programs to allow families the opportunity to set up tax-exempt 529A savings accounts for disability-related expenses. Read more here.
Stay up to date on all advocacy efforts in your state by signing up for Autism Votes HERE.