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Iowa Becomes the 19th State to Enact Autism Insurance Reform

April 30, 2010

NEW YORK, NY (April 30, 2010) -- Autism Speaks joined Iowa families and other autism advocacy organizations in applauding Governor Chet Culver yesterday for signing the Standing Appropriations Bill, HF 2531, which includes an amendment requiring the state health insurance plan to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis, for state employees. Enactment of this amendment marks the first step in bringing about statewide reform of the private insurance market and ending insurance discrimination against all individuals with autism.

The law includes a $36,000 annual cap on treatments for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) up to age 21 that are enrolled in the health insurance plan for state employees.

“Autism Speaks applauds Governor Culver’s enactment of HF 2531, which includes a provision that will extend a helping hand to the families of state employees,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “Our hope is that this pilot project will create a solid foundation from which to expand coverage in the next legislative session to the greater population of families that have been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for necessary autism therapies.”

Representatives Mark Kuhn and Christopher Rants helped push the amendment through the House. The amendment was modeled after SF 2349, which was sponsored by State Senator Daryl Beall and was passed by the Senate earlier this month. Senator Beall is the grandfather of a child with autism.

“Including coverage of autism in state insurance plans will now serve as the gold standard that all insurance plans, both private and public, should live up to,” said Josh Cobbs, Autism Speaks Iowa Chapter Advocacy Chair, Chairperson of the Iowa Autism Council, and father of a child with autism. “Advocates from throughout Iowa worked tirelessly and with this passage their voices were heard. This is not the end, but rather the start of getting autism treatment to all Iowans in need.”

In many states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary treatment. In addition to Iowa, 18 other states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin – have enacted autism insurance reform bills, while a bill in Iowa has been passed by the state legislature and awaits enactment into law.