NEW YORK, NY (July 6, 2011) Autism Speaks joined Rhode Island families today in applauding Governor Lincoln Chafee for signing into law Senate Bill 107, making Rhode Island the sixth and final New England state to enact autism insurance reform legislation. This new law requires insurance companies to provide coverage of autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), up to the age of 15.
Sponsored in the Rhode Island Senate by Senator Edward O'Neill and Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, and in the House by Rep. Peter Palumbo, the new law requires that group health insurance contracts and plans issued or renewed in Rhode Island starting on January 1, 2012, cover treatment of autism spectrum disorder, including speech, occupational and physical therapies. It also includes coverage of ABA therapy with a maximum benefit of $32,000 annually.
"We thank Governor Chafee for signing SB 107 into law", said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. "This enactment represents a significant step forward as it allows Rhode Island to join the growing number of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on individuals diagnosed with autism and their families."
Some 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.
"I would like to thank the parents, grandparents, siblings and friends of our loved ones with ASD for their perseverance", said Senator O'Neill. "They have lived the life of challenge, stress and joy that comes with traveling in uncharted waters. This legislation provides hope that help is on the way."
Representative Palumbo, who chairs a legislative commission which has been studying the education of children with autism since 2009, said, Rhode Island must do what it can to ensure that autistic children receive the treatment they need in order to combat the disorder. Coverage will break down barriers to necessary services which, for the most severely affected, can cost $50,000 a year or more."
In addition to Rhode Island, 26 states have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. A bill passed by the New York Legislature in June awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature.