At Capitol rally, Steinberg calls for renewal of Autism Insurance Mandate

April 18, 2013

(Sacramento, CA) – With California’s landmark autism insurance coverage law set to expire in 2014, California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg announced a bill that would extend a requirement for health insurance companies to provide coverage of behavioral health treatment for autism spectrum disorders as a medical benefit.

At a State Capitol rally with advocates for autism awareness, the California Senate leader called for a five-year extension to the sunset clause in Senate Bill 946 of 2011, informing supporters that this year’s Senate Bill 126 would extend the law’s provisions until 2019. The original law, authored by Senator Steinberg, ended the discriminatory practice of health insurance plans denying coverage of early intervention therapies for those with autism.

In a statement, Senator Steinberg said, “Nine years ago I served as the Chair of the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism and the idea of autism insurance coverage was a distant dream. Not anymore.  We passed SB 946, California’s landmark autism insurance mandate. Those with autism now have access to the most extensive insurance coverage of any state in the nation. SB 126 will keep the dream alive.”

A recent report by the Center for Disease Control indicates that one in every 50 children lives with an autism spectrum disorder, representing a 300 percent increase since 2005. It is estimated that Senate Bill 946 is already providing intensive early autism treatment to more than 12,000 California children while saving state taxpayers up to $197.8 million in special education costs, which were previously funded by school districts or regional centers, according to the California Department of Insurance.

Concerned that some families have lost behavioral treatment for their children with autism due to the transition from the Healthy Families program to Medi-Cal enacted last year, Senator Steinberg has committed to working with Governor Brown’s Administration to correct these problems.

Senator Steinberg said, “While SB 946 is a proud achievement, it’s not nearly enough. This year we intend to fight to make sure all kids, regardless of whether they’re on public or private insurance, get the benefit of behavioral therapy. We must seek to include behavioral treatment for autism in Medi-Cal Managed Health Care to ensure children receive necessary and equitable services.”

Steinberg made the announcement yesterday at “Stand Up, Speak Out,” a statewide autism and disability rights legislative advocacy day, hosted by the Special Needs Network, Inc., Autism Speaks, Alliance of California Autism Organizations, and Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Senators Lou Correa (D – Santa Ana), Ben Hueso (D – San Diego) and Marty Block (D – San Diego) also spoke at the rally.

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