Autism Advocates applaud new NJ legislation – but see shortcomings

    Advocacy groups in New Jersey applaud new legislation that mandates insurance companies to cover treatments for people with autism, but say the coverage still doesn’t go far enough.

    Advocacy groups in New Jersey applaud new legislation that mandates insurance companies to cover treatments for people with autism, but say the coverage still doesn’t go far enough.

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    Insurance companies in New Jersey now have to pay for ongoing autism interventions such as speech and behavioral therapy – but advocates see two major shortcomings with the new legislation. One – it only affects people covered by state-regulated plans, roughly 50 percent of New Jersey families. Two – the coverage is capped when a patient turns 21.

    Leslie Long is director of policy for Autism New Jersey. She says that means only about fifty percent of New Jersey families will be able to benefit from it. Her organization is now focusing on achieving similar legislation on the national level:

    Long: We have to pass a bill in Washington that mandates health care reform for children on the autism spectrum around the country, to really affect change for 100 percent of families in our state.

    The second problem advocates see with the legislation is that some of the coverage is capped when a patient turns 21. Christine Bakter of the advocacy group Autism Speaks:

    Bakter: Many of the mandates that we’re passing do have an age cap of 21 and autism is a life-long condition, even with effective treatments and therapies, many of our children grow into adults that need varying levels of support.

    Bakter says Autism Speaks will continue to lobby for services for adults with autism ; getting insurance coverage for ongoing therapies, as well as services for independent living and job placement.

    Bakter: And for our more severely affected adults with autism, their parents don’t live forever. We need to support these individuals as their parents age and pass away.

    Bakter says there are currently long waiting lists for group homes or supported living arrangements.

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