Governor Patrick today signed into law a bill that will make essential diagnostic tests, medical treatment and services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, including applied behavioral analysis and other critical interventions that are determined to be medically necessary, more affordable and accessible for residents of the Commonwealth. The legislation, "An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism" (HB 4935), goes into effect on January 1, 2011.
"I am proud that Massachusetts now has one of the most comprehensive autism coverage laws in the nation," said Governor Patrick. "This bill offers needed relief for individuals and families struggling to pay for the services they need."
"Parents have long been faced with the difficulty of getting necessary medical care for their autistic children covered by insurance companies. Studies have shown that by receiving services early, those diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder will need fewer services later in life," said Senate President Therese Murray. "This law will change existing insurance policy so that we will be able to provide early intervention care to more children with autism, teaching them to communicate and learn at an early age. The passage and signing of this legislation signals an increased understanding about autism and its treatment."
"With more and more Massachusetts families confronting autism, this bill will provide needed relief for families dealing with medical costs as a result of treating this disorder," said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. "I am proud that that we have come together to support families who care for a loved one with autism."
Massachusetts has been a leader in establishing early intervention practices and other supports for people with autism. This legislation will go even further to ensure that these vital services are available for children and adults within this vulnerable community.
The legislation signed today requires that health insurance companies provide coverage for early and intensive interventions. Under the new law, insurers may not establish any annual or lifetime service limitations on coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders that are less than that for physical conditions. Insurers may also not limit the number of visits an individual may make to an autism services provider.
The Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy provided an analysis for the Legislature earlier this year that identified significant financial strain facing families with children with autism. The state also reviewed evolving treatment data and concluded that the best established treatments for autism have shown substantial efficacy.
"No one should be denied a healthy outcome because of the high cost of services. This is a victory for the courageous families who live with the uncertainty of autism daily," said Senator Frederick E. Berry, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
"Today we are taking the necessary steps to transform the lives of people throughout the Commonwealth, so that all individuals with autism have access to services and treatment," said Representative Barbara L'Italien, who sponsored the bill in the House. "I am proud of my colleagues in both the House and Senate for passing this important piece of legislation, and I am happy to be with the Governor as he signs this legislation into law. Families impacted by autism have a reason to celebrate today; Massachusetts has reason to celebrate."
"Autism insurance coverage represents a systemic change in how many people with autism in Massachusetts will access critical treatment," said Amy K. Weinstock, Insurance Committee Chair for Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAR). "We are grateful to the members of our community for their tireless advocacy and for the amazing support of Autism Speaks. Representative L'Italien and Senator Berry, we are incredibly fortunate to have you as our champions. Governor Patrick, thank you for making autism insurance coverage a reality for our families."
"The unanimous passage by the Massachusetts House and Senate last week combined with Governor Patrick's signing of ARICA today is an important reminder of what our elected officials can and will do to help Massachusetts 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 insurance discrimination in every state in America."