State Capitol News
10:46 pm
Thu March 20, 2008

Governor signs autism coverage bill

Phoenix, AZ – Governor Janet Napolitano has signed legislation to eventually require insurance companies to provide coverage for autism. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.

The Centers for Disease Control say one child out of 150 has some
form of autism which, in its most severe form, alters the
thinking, feeling, language skills and ability to relate to
others. Gretchen Jacobs said the condition historically never was
covered by insurers.

(15 years ago, 20 years ago, people believed that autism wasn't
treatable. So insurance policies were written in accordance with
that. Now there's more recent research and experience shows that
treatment makes a huge difference.)

Jacobs knows the issue from both sides. She used to lobby for
insurance companies. Now she's the mother of a 4-year-old girl
who suddenly took sick and developed autism at the age of 14
months.

(She got sick and pretty much deteriorated over about a two,
three week period and stopped talking, stopped having any
interest in her family. Had no interest in her toys. She actually
stopped chewing her food and we had to start pureeing all of her
food.)

Napolitano's decision to require coverage came despite opposition
from insurance and business lobbyists who said any new mandates
only raises the cost and makes coverage less affordable.

For Arizona Public Radio, this is Howard Fischer.