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Legislator wants autism treatments covered

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State Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., a Republican from Merrick, has introduced legislation to ensure that people with autism receive insurance coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

Currently, those with autism are routinely denied insurance benefits for the treatment of their disorder, forcing their families to pay for costly treatments.

“No family should have to choose between forgoing important health treatments or going broke to get care for their loved ones,” said Fuschillo. “However, many families with a loved one who has autism must do just that because their health insurance company refuses to cover autism treatment costs. This legislation would put an end to that by ensuring that families have the costs of screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders covered by insurance.”

In addition to requiring coverage, the legislation would prohibit an insurance company from terminating or refusing to renew coverage for someone who has been diagnosed or received treatment for autism.

Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, a Democrat from Irondequoit who is chairman of the Assembly’s Insurance Committee, has introduced a companion bill in the Assembly that would also require insurance companies to pay for autism treatments.

“Autism is a disorder affecting a growing number of families, and they deserve access to affordable health care, insurance and treatments that will help their children lead better lives,” Morelle said. “It is time to establish parity for those with autism.”

Last year, a similar bill sponsored by Fuschillo and Morelle unanimously passed both houses of the state Legislature, but Gov. David Paterson vetoed the measure.

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects normal brain function, including development of communication and social interaction skills.

Autism Speaks, one of the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organizations, has lobbied aggressively for the new insurance legislation. According to the organization, one in 110 children is diagnosed with autism.

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