Senate approves bill to extend coverage for Autism patients

Joseph Crisco
Joseph Crisco

HARTFORD — The state Senate this week approved a bill to ensure health insurance coverage for autism patients in Connecticut.

State Sen. Joseph Crisco, Jr. (D-17), Senate chair of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said the bill was prompted by a concern that some patients might lose their benefits based upon new diagnosis criteria expected imminently from the American Psychiatric Association.

In 2009 Connecticut enacted Crisco’s initiative to extend additional healthcare insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), ranging from the most acute autistic disorders to Rett’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger’s disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, according to a press release issued by Crisco’s office.

“In 2008, we worked hard to enact a law requiring health insurance coverage for physical, speech and occupational therapy for autism patients and then the following year we added mandatory coverage for diagnostic procedures, behavioral therapy for children, prescription medications and psychological and psychiatric treatments,” Crisco said in a statement. “We cannot risk any backsliding in terms of health insurance coverage for these patients as a result of arbitrary diagnostic criteria from the APA.”

Prior to the laws enacted in 2008 and 2009 thousands of Connecticut families were left on their own to underwrite the money required to diagnose, treat and care for autism patients, according to the release.

“The challenges of raising a child with any condition on the autism spectrum are compounded by communication difficulties and the ‘moving target’ nature of the illness. It’s extremely difficult to determine a long-lasting treatment regimen because symptoms can often change suddenly and quite dramatically,” Crisco said in a statement. “This year’s bill would provide families some measure of assurance that their coverage will continue no matter what revisions are made in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”