June 21, 2010

Assembly Expands Health Insurance Coverage For
Autism Spectrum Disorders

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Insurance Committee Chair Joseph D. Morelle today announced the passage of groundbreaking legislation to require accident and health insurance policies to provide lifetime coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (A.10372-A).

The estimated number of children with ASD has steadily increased since the condition was first identified in 1943. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1 out of 110 children are diagnosed with ASD.

Children with ASD demonstrate deficits in social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and engage in repetitive behaviors or interests. Each of these symptoms varies from mild to severe. Although opinions vary on the best treatment for children with ASD, most professionals agree that early intervention is important.

This legislation addresses concerns related to the availability of health insurance for autism, including the types of medical care that is appropriate for this condition. Under the bill, the commissioner of health, in consultation with the superintendent of insurance and the commissioners of the Office of Mental Health and Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, are directed to identify minimum coverage options that are evidence-based, peer-reviewed and clinically proven treatment and therapy for which coverage would be required.

"It would be unconscionable to force New Yorkers to pay out-of-pocket for this common, chronic condition," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "Some studies have indicated that the annual cost of treatment can be as high as $72,000 a year. Current law is written so that ASD coverage is 'not excluded' in accident and health insurance policies, but we needed to make clarifications and ensure that families are able to get the best options available to treat this serious developmental disorder."

"Reliable health insurance coverage for autistic children is long overdue. Parents and youngsters have suffered with uncertainty for too long," said Morelle (D-Rochester). "No longer will parents have to guess what medical treatments their insurance carrier will or will not cover. This bill would give families peace of mind, allowing them to confidently seek the medical care their autistic child needs."