Assembly Expands Health Insurance Coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorders

June 24, 2010

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) announced that the Assembly passed groundbreaking legislation they sponsored, which requires 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.

“Many families carry a heavy financial burden when they have a member that is dealing with Autism,” said Jaffee. “As a former teacher, I’ve seen the need to help these children early and the importance of making sure that they have assistance through their life. This bill can give them the support they need to excel in our communities.”

“This bill is the first step in bridging the gap in insurance coverage for autism treatments,” said Assemblyman Zebrowski. “Families who have a loved one with autism have the burden of expensive therapies and treatments. I believe that this bill will greatly expand coverage for proven treatments.”