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San Francisco Bay Area Autism Speaks Chapter Endorses Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism Recommendations for Equitable Insurance Coverage for Children With Autism
Date:10/22/2007

180,000 Children with Autism in California Lack Proper Healthcare Coverage

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Autism Speaks today announced the organization's endorsement of the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism's recommendations to ensure appropriate and equitable health insurance coverage for children with autism. These recommendations were finalized and presented to the California State Legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Autism Speaks urges that these recommendations are swiftly translated into legislation to be introduced in the 2007-2008 Legislative Session.

Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States. One in 150 children are diagnosed with autism, which is more than the number of children diagnosed with AIDS, juvenile diabetes and cancer combined, yet many of their treatments and therapies are not covered by private or public health insurance. However, autism insurance reform fits well within the state's practice of smart mandates, having minimal cost/premium impact and providing an essential and extraordinary benefit to the affected population.

"Autism Speaks commends the Commission and its staff for reaching out in countless ways to parents and advocates across California and for listening to our concerns about appropriate and equitable health care insurance for children with autism," said Kristin Jacobson, Chapter Advocacy Chair, Autism Speaks California. "We believe that all health plans and insurers should provide a full range of services for children with autism, including intensive behavioral treatment, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis, a highly effective, evidenced-based intensive behavior modification therapy."

According to the report, coverage of health care, behavioral, and psychotherapeutic services for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is limited, inconsistent or excluded altogether. Health plans may deny services for ASD for reasons related to medical necessity that are at odds with medical science. Thus, the frequent denial of these services for ASD by some private health plans may be inconsistent both with current scientific evidence as well as with the standards and approaches that are applied to other illnesses and medical conditions. Finally, health plan denials of ASD services often do not acknowledge or reference the emerging standards of care and best practices that are being developed at autism centers of excellence.

"With a successful push to legislation, California will join twelve other states in addressing this crisis by implementing autism-specific insurance legislation," added Albert Wang M.D., Internal Medical Physician, Blue Ribbon Commissioner, Parent and Founder of Friends of Children with Special Needs.

Autism Speaks also supports the Commission's recommendations for early identification and intervention, improving access to services, preparing teachers and other school-based personnel and increasing awareness and knowledge of autism among law enforcement officers and first responders.

The Commission's report can be viewed at http://senweb03.senate.ca.gov/autism/whatsnew.html.

About Autism

Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

About California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism

The Blue Ribbon Commission, a joint legislative task force of health experts, business leaders, affected family members and academics, was formed in April 2005 by California Senate President pro Tem Don Perata and California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Early on in their research, the Commissioners and staff identified three crucial yet insufficient areas of current health policies regarding people with autism. Based on these identifications, task forces were created to address the existing gaps in Early Identification & Intervention, Education & Professional Development and Transitional Services & Supports.

About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman, General Electric, and served as chief executive officer of NBC for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks has merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit http://www.autismspeaks.org.


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SOURCE The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Autism Speaks
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