Advocacy group Autism Speaks today announced it would work to pass legislation in Florida, California and Michigan to require health insurers to cover autism services such as ABA.
The group's leaders Bob and Suzanne Wright said they plan to meet with Florida Governor Charlie Crist and legislative leaders in what they hope will be a bipartisan effort to pass legislation requiring health insurers to cover autism-related therapies like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) "and other structured behavioral therapies, which are the most effective forms of treatment and have the best outcomes, both in human costs and in long-term economic benefits."
"It's time for insurance companies to step up and assume some of the financial burden now shouldered by families and school districts," said Bob Wright. "The autism community is mobilized and determined to go state-by-state state and knock on every legislator's door until these unreasonable insurance laws are changed. It's time to remove these barriers to care."
The announcement cites the fact that so far, Indiana, South Carolina and Texas are the only states which require insurers to cover autism-related services and asserts: "Nationwide, few private insurance companies or other employee benefit plans cover Applied Behavior Analysis and other behavioral therapies. In fact, most insurance companies designate autism as a diagnostic exclusion, meaning that no autism-specific services are covered, even those that would be used to treat other conditions."
As part of this advocacy effort, Autism Speaks posted a paper citing arguments in favor of autism insurance coverage. You can see the PDF document here. It's the same document that advocates in Arizona published on their website. For more on that, see "Arizona Advocates Prepare for Autism Insurance Push."
The choice of these big states is interesting as we enter a presidential election year in which health care is an important issue. So far in the campaign autism has been mentioned briefly, if notably, by Democrat Hillary Clinton. (See "Autism Issue Makes Ripple in Presidential Race.") Autism Bulletin readers responding to an online poll posted Dec. 17 identified autism services as the most important factor in their presidential choice.
It's an election year at the state level, too, and that's where the autism insurance battles will be fought. Autism Speaks said it plans to continue advocating for passage of a bill in Pennsylvania that was pending earlier in 2007 and faced opposition from business lobbyists.
Autism Speaks is one of the nation's biggest autism advocacy groups, and funds research and education initiatives as well as advocacy efforts. It was founded by the Wrights who have an autistic grandson. Bob Wright is the former CEO of NBC.