With Congress now considering health-care reform, the time has come to rectify the injustice of autism insurance discrimination. Fourteen states, including Pennsylvania, have already righted this wrong by passing laws that require insurance companies to cover autism treatments and therapies. These treatments include behavioral therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy - interventions that are prescribed by our children's doctors and are widely recognized as crucial to our children's improvement.
In 36 states, parents with insurance still have to pay out of pocket for these interventions, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year. Even in states that have autism insurance laws, not all families benefit. Those who work for companies employing fewer than 50 people or companies that carry their own insurance do not benefit from the state law.
Autism insurance discrimination is unacceptable. Congress could end this travesty by including an autism insurance mandate, such as the one proposed by Barack Obama during the presidential campaign, in health-care reform. Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, has spearheaded a national campaign highlighting this blatant discrimination against children with autism and calling on Congress to put an end to it in the health-care reform effort.
Pennsylvania's autism community has a few champions in Congress. Sen. Bob Casey and Reps. Mike Doyle, Tim Murphy and Tim Holden have all endorsed the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act (H.R. 2413, S. 819), which includes autism insurance coverage. It's time for the rest of Congress to listen and act.