FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 2, 2007
AUSTIN -- Today State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. filed Senate Bill 419 to improve the outlook of children afflicted with Autism.
"On behalf of thousands of Texas families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), I am extremely excited to announce new legislation that will help assure vital services are provided for children and adults diagnosed with this condition" said Lucio.
The language in SB 419 is the culmination of six years of research on how to most effectively and affordably serve individuals with ASD in Texas. SB 419 defines autism as a neurobiological disorder and includes language to prevent insurance companies from denying routine coverage to enrollees diagnosed with autism. SB 419 will ensure that individuals in need of routine services are equally covered by their health plan, regardless of whether they have an autism diagnosis.
SB 419 will also add Texas to a list of 17 states that require early intervention treatments for children with autism. According to Sen. Lucio, "Twenty-five years of research demonstrates that when autistic children are provided with a comprehensive set of intensive services at an early age, more than 40 percent are able to enter and succeed in regular classrooms, and another 40 percent make remarkable gains in functional ability."
SB 419 requires that health plans cover all services included in a physician prescribed treatment plan for children with autism ages 3 to 5 years and encourages them to continue covering treatment as long as necessary.
Numerous studies indicate that early interventions for children with autism could cut associated lifelong costs by two-thirds. "Early intervention can mean the difference between helping a child achieve the ability to engage in a conversation with a parent and a child incapable of even maintaining eye contact," explained Sen. Lucio.
The United States currently spends $90 billion on ASD related services each year, 90 percent of which is used for adult services.
"With ASD rates growing between 10 and 17 percent per year, we as a state and a nation must do everything in our ability to offset the impact, starting by ensuring that young children get the services they need," added Sen. Lucio. "By refusing key services to children with autism, we are condemning them and their families to a lifetime of unnecessary hardship and social isolation."
Note: Staff member handling this issue for Sen. Lucio is Ms. Katharine Volti, policy analyst, 512-463-0127.