Haverhill Rep. Barbara L'Italien, 18th Essex District, is celebrating the passage of a bill, of which she was the lead sponsor, requiring health insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism.
The bill was pushed through the House on July 27, passed in the Senate on July 29, and signed into law on Aug. 3.
"I am proud that the Legislature has passed this bill to allow people who have health insurance and pay their premiums to be able to receive coverage for autism spectrum disorders," L'Italien, who is a parent of an autistic child, said. "I have spent 20 years paying for the services that my son needs. Most families are not fortunate enough to be able to cover these costs, and many find themselves facing incredible economic hardship."
According to L'Italien, lifetime costs stemming from an individual's autism care can reach $3.2 million, an amount not only felt by families, but by the state, which features early intervention and other state-funded programs.
Autism affects 1.5 million children nationwide, and next year, it is estimated that 700 children from Massachusetts will be diagnosed with the disease that can not only impair social interaction and overall communication, but in some cases, can leave its sufferers incapable of either.
The Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism will provide rehabilitative, psychiatric, psychological, therapeutic and habilitative care to all those with autism, and will benefit public school districts, as well, says L'Italien.
"Public school districts are requires to educate students with autism," she said. "Special education costs are inflated by students who simply aren't receiving the appropriate services outside of school."
And while there are mounting concerns over the costs relating to the new health care bill, L'Italien says that the costs associated with diagnosing and treating individuals with autism are relatively minimal.