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Pennsylvania Tells Autism Speaks to Stop Talking
Date:7/3/2008

PITTSBURGH, July 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday in a historical and unprecedented move, the Pennsylvania legislature voted nearly unanimously in the affirmative for House Bill 1150 to mandate commercial insurance companies to cover some services for children with autism. The bill, introduced by House Speaker Dennis M. O'Brien, requires insurance companies to cover up to $36,000 of autism-related treatment for individuals less than 21 years old.

In nearly one full week of roller-coaster negotiations with the House Banking and Insurance Committee, headed by Senator Don White, the bill was stripped of all useful language, leaving Pennsylvania children with autism vulnerable to denials of coverage. House Speaker O'Brien, along with Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and Secretary Estelle Richman of the Department of Public Welfare joined in condemning the gutting of the bill. "The current version of HB 1150 may look like it gives coverage to families affected by autism, but it's an illusion. This version will actually hurt some families who have kids with autism. This risk is unacceptable," said Speaker O'Brien in a statement released on June 29, 2008.

Autism Speaks, a national organization that conducts fundraising for research, and their paid lobbyists from Ikon, Inc., made several back-door concessions on the bill without the consent of Speaker O'Brien. In an unparalleled move, the entire Pennsylvania and national autism community stood in unity to support Speaker O'Brien to say "Only the Speaker Speaks for me." Over 62 organizations across Pennsylvania and nationally converged to show support for the Speaker, who has a nephew with autism.

"This is an amazing effort on the part of the entire autism community to tell Autism Speaks that the children come first, not politics," said Cindy Waeltermann, President of AutismLink, a statewide Pennsylvania autism advocacy and information organization. "I think it is abundantly clear tha
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SOURCE AutismLink
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