Autism Speaks | Autism Insurance Bill Introduced in Arizona State Legislature | January 2008 #AutisticHistory #StopBigAutism #BanABA


[Note: Shared for #AutisticHistory archive purposes. This is NOT An Autistic Ally.]

Autism Insurance Bill Introduced in Arizona State Legislature

(ARIZONA – January 29, 2008) On January 29, 2008, Arizona State Senator Amanda Aguirre introduced legislation that would disallow large group insurers from denying or refusing coverage to children who were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. The required coverage would include the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders and treatment that prescribed by the insured’s treating medical doctor pursuant to a treatment plan. 


Arizona State Senate 

1700 W. Washington St.,

Phoenix, AZ 85007

Senator Amanda Aguirre, D-24

(602) 926-4139

 January 29, 2008



Today, Senator Amanda Aguirre (D-24) will file a bill to address insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders.  

The proposed legislation sponsored by Aguirre disallows large group insurers from denying or refusing coverage to children who were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. The proposal would require insurers to provide the diagnosed children benefits up to age eighteen.

 Aguirre will hold a press conference today at the Capitol Rose Garden at 10 a.m. where a number of advocates will gather in support of the legislation.

  “Early diagnosis and treatment is incredibly important in being able to treat this type of disorder. Caught early enough, a child can reverse the degenerative nature of the disorder,” said Aguirre. Today, one in every 150 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers from Disease Control 2007 data. This definition includes Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  

Aguirre was first contacted by Char Ugol, the mother of an autistic child, to propose this type of legislation. The bill is named “Steven’s Law” in honor of Ugol’s son.  “Since my son’s diagnosis at age three, our pediatrician has recommended therapies that would lessen his symptoms of autism, but our insurance would not cover it. Twenty years ago, autism was thought to be untreatable, but we know now that’s not the case,” said Ugol. “After learning that seventeen states have laws requiring insurers to cover children with autism, I knew this would be of tremendous benefit to families in Arizona.” 

 Ugol added, “I’m thankful to Senator Aguirre who recognized that private insurers in Arizona could enable children with autism to get the treatments they need.” Immediately after Ugol contacted Aguirre, the Senator organized meetings with various stakeholders including major insurance companies and advocate organizations, such as the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), Center for Autism Research and Development (CARD), Supporting Autism Now Through Education (SANE), Autism Society of America (ASA) Greater Phoenix Chapter, Raising Special Kids, Asperger Parent Network, and the Arizona Autism Coalition.      

Several of the organizations have provided statements, which are listed below:  

“Senator Aguirre’s bill provides hope to Arizona families faced with the tremendous financial burden of providing the best possible services for their children with autism.  It’s time the private health insurance system begins to absorb some of this expense. Senator Aguirre’s leadership has ensured Arizona’s place in this national legislative effort”, said Elizabeth Emken, Vice President – Government Relations, Autism Speaks. “This legislation will give Arizona children living with autism the early intervention and treatment they need and deserve for the best life-long outcomes. 

By investing in their health at an early age, millions of dollars will be saved in the long term,” said Lisa Glow, President & CEO, SARRC. “This key legislation will end discrimination against autism families, who have been denied insurance coverage of proven treatments that are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Surgeon General.

This legislation will save children from a devastating lifelong disorder that is treatable today,” James B. Adams, Autism Society of America, Greater Phoenix Chapter. “The Autism Insurance legislation will allow families to get their children the intense early intervention they need. Autism is treatable; with this legislation, many families will have the opportunity to benefit from treatment, allowing their children to enter school prepared for a mainstream classroom. In addition, by treating children early this will dramatically reduce the lifelong cost of providing services, and can enable them to become fully independent adults” said Melissa Van Hook, SANE. 

 “It is our expressed wish at APN that all the children within our network grow to become active, working, supported members of our community. In order to accomplish this goal it is imperative that they all receive equal access to health care services such as speech, physical and behavioral therapies at the earliest age possible.

Today, for the majority of our families these services are not covered by insurance and so they either must pay out of pocket or simply forego treatment. We did not view either option as viable. That is why it is so important that this bill be passed in order to give our children the best chance for future success,” said Carolyn Warden, Asperger Parent Network.  

Major Provisions of the Bill: 

Coverage includes the diagnosis of ASD and treatment that is prescribed by the insured’s treating medical doctor pursuant to a treatment plan. Treatment includes speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy, psychiatric care, and psychological care.  Coverage is provided to any eligible person under 18 years of age.

Provides that the required coverage must not be subject to dollar limits, deductibles, or coinsurance provisions that are less favorable to an insured than the dollar limits, deductibles, or coinsurance provisions that apply to physical illness except that coverage for behavioral therapy is limited to $50,000 per year.  However, there can be no limit on the number of visits an eligible person may make to a provider of behavioral therapy.

The bill provisions would only apply to an employer with more than 50 employees, including the state employee health plan.  Small employers (50 or less employees), individual plans, self-insured employers, and AHCCCS plans are exempt.

Effective date:  June 30, 2009 


Additional Media Contact: Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez

Director of Communication and Constituent Services

Senate Democratic Caucus

602-926-4477  *

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