(June 9, 2010–Albany, NY) The Senate Democratic Majority passed groundbreaking legislation to protect children with autism, setting the bar for a new national standard for treatment and services. The legislation (S7000B/Breslin) requires early intervention screening, diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorders, saving families facing autism thousands of dollars a year.
Despite research demonstrating that early intervention and intensive behavioral therapies can yield significant improvement in the quality of life for those with autism, diagnosis and treatment have been excluded from coverage by health insurance carriers in New York.
The prior insurance law did not provide clarity to consumers or insurers as to the scope of the required coverage. This bill includes an updated definition of autism spectrum disorder, and tells insurers what must be covered. The Commissioner of Health would be responsible for publicizing regulations identifying treatment and therapy options for autism coverage.
Twenty states previously spoke up for those affected by autism by passing legislation to provide them with insurance coverage. The passage of this much needed legislation would make New York the 21st state to require such coverage. This bill is one of the strongest in the nation, not only requiring policies to cover autism, but does so without a financial cap. Furthermore, the coverage is extended for the entire life span of the individual.
The bill would only allow evidence-based and clinically proven treatments to be covered.
Senator Neil D. Breslin (D-Albany), Chair of the Insurance Committee and sponsor of the bill said, “This law would restore the voice of those indirectly affected by autism. Many families paying out-of-pocket for autism treatments risk their homes and the educations of their unaffected children, mortgaging their entire futures for something that should be covered by basic health insurance.”
The Centers for Disease Control have now estimated that the number of children with autism is 1 in 110 nationwide, up from previous estimates of 1 in 150. The numbers are even more stark in New York, with the autism rate for children increasing by about 15-percent per year. Recent studies have shown that close to 1 in 90 children are affected by autism. Currently, there are 17,000 students ages 4 to 21 classified by New York schools as having autism.
Senator Craig M. Johnson (D-Nassau) said, “Every day I hear the horror stories from families who have re-mortgaged their homes and taken second and third jobs in order to pay for the autism-related treatments that their children need. Insurance companies are supposed to be there to help families during times of crisis. Today, we are ensuring that these companies live up to their responsibility.”
“People often lament the political gridlock in Albany, but this legislation is an important reminder of what our elected officials can and will do to help New York’s families,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “Families here and around the country are literally going broke trying to give children the therapies they need and deserve to meet their full potential. It’s time that we eliminate this unfair burden and end insurers’ blatant discrimination against children with autism in every state in America.”
“The passage of S7000B is an important step toward coverage of evidence-based autism treatment for New York families who have historically been discriminated against by the very health plans to which they pay premiums,” said Judith Ursitti, Autism Speaks regional director of state advocacy relations. “We thank Senator Breslin, in particular, for his commitment and leadership on this issue.”
“The Autism Science Foundation is proud to support S7000B, which will enable thousands of New York families to receive the benefit of evidence based, clinically proven interventions and treatments for autism spectrum disorders, like Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA), as well as screening and diagnostic services” said Alison Singer, Westchester County resident and President of the Autism Science Foundation. “Research has shown that evidence-based intensive behavioral therapies like ABA can result in significant improvement in the cognition, communication and well-being of people with autism spectrum disorder.”
“We enthusiastically support Senator Breslin and his colleagues in their efforts to bring equity in insurance coverage to children and adults who are challenged by autism and autism spectrum disorder.” said Dr. Henry Schaeffer, Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics, District II, New York State. “The more than 5,000 pediatricians across the state who provide health care to more than 4 million children stand with you in your work to assure that all children and families, no matter what their physical, psychological or intellectual challenges, can get the health care they need to live productive and healthy lives.”
“The Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association celebrates the New York State Senate’s actions in passing S7000B and affording autistic individuals access to quality health care,” said Patricia R. Schissel, LMSW, President, AHA Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association (AHA) Inc. “We welcome the Senate’s willingness to stand with us in our undying support of those whose lives have been touched by autism.”