Autism Speaks joined New Jersey families and other autism advocacy organizations in applauding Governor Jon Corzine today for signing the autism insurance reform bill, S. 1651/A. 2238, into law. New Jersey is the fifteenth state to enact legislation which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies.
Attendees cheer on Governor Corzine as he signs the insurance reform bill
The New Jersey bill requires insurers to cover up to $36,000 annually for a child with autism that is 21 years of age or younger. Coverage includes Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, which is recognized as an effective, evidence-based treatment for children with autism.
In many states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services. Fourteen other states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas – have passed similar autism insurance reform bills. Nearly thirty states had bills introduced in their legislatures this year.
A.2238 was sponsored by Speaker Joseph Roberts, Assemblywoman Joan Voss and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto. S.1651 was sponsored by state Senator Joseph Vitale. Hundreds of parents, advocates and their children attended the emotional bill-signing ceremony at Children's Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick.
"I'm proud of this,'' Corzine told the crowd before signing the bill." This is one of those things that will make a difference, not just for today and tomorrow but for long into the future.''
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, who championed the bill, agreed. He said the new law "mandates that health insurers do the right thing.''
Autism Speaks New Jersey Chapter Advocacy Chair, Christine Bakter, who is the mother of two sons on the autism spectrum, spoke about her personal struggles prior to introducing Governor Corzine at the ceremony.
"I can honestly say that eight years into this journey, I'm really, really tired of fighting and I thank both Governor Corzine and Speaker Roberts for doing the right thing for our families today. I look forward to knowing that we have options and I will not have to choose which child will get treatment. We've been paying for this coverage all along."
Bakter's sons, Alex and Ben, celebrated with the Governor as he signed the bill into law.
For additional information about the New Jersey legislation, visit www.autismvotes.org.
View additional photos on the Governor's website at: www.state.nj.us/governor/news/photos/2009/20090813.html
NJ Chapter Advocacy Chair Christine Bakter and her son Alex, holding the pen that Governor Corzine used to sign the bill