Thursday, July 19, 2007

Legislative Update: New Mexico to Study Autism Services, Including Insurance Coverage

In February, New Mexico's Senate passed a bill that would have prohibited health insurers from discriminating against patients on the basis of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. This bill, known as Senate Bill 197 did not go as far as laws passed in Texas and South Carolina; those states passed laws requiring insurers to cover autism services for children. (See the text of the New Mexico bill, also called SB 197, via the New Mexico Legislature website by clicking here).

It turns out the law which Governor Bill Richardson signed in March goes less far than what proponents originally sought. The law, one paragraph long, calls for a study. It says:

The human services department, in collaboration with private insurance companies and consumers, shall conduct a study of autism spectrum disorder services, study the systems that serve the population affected by autism spectrum disorders and determine the most appropriate funding mechanisms, including health insurance, state disability insurance or developmental disability waivers or autism waivers. The human services department shall report its findings and recommendations to the legislative finance committee and the appropriate interim legislative committee on or before November 1, 2007.

While this represents less than what proponents sought in the first place, it also could mean a step forward next year, after the human services department makes its report. In other words, New Mexico could end up with a more comprehensive look at the issue of autism services and what to do about them. It will be interesting to see what those recommendations look like and what kinds of reactions they get not only from families of people with autism spectrum disorders and autism service providers, but also lobbyists for business groups and health insurers.

Also see:

* Map of State Autism Insurance Laws

* New Mexico Senate Passes Bill for Autism Insurance Coverage

* South Carolina Legislature Overrides Veto to Pass Autism Insurance Law

* Texas Governor Signs Autism Insurance Bill

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