The New York State Senate today voted to enact important legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Mike Nozzolio(S.4005)  that will require accident and health insurance policies to provide coverage for screening, diagnosis and treatment for patients with autism spectrum disorders. The legislation has been adopted in both houses of the State Legislature and only awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature to become law.

“With autism, early diagnosis and intense early intervention are critical to gain the most benefit from existing therapies. However, while insurance companies and HMOs routinely cover treatment for similar neurobiological disorders, most health insurance plans in New York do not cover autism treatment. This legislation will close a significant gap in insurance coverage for individuals with autism,” said Senator Nozzolio.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has now estimated that one out of every 110 American children is affected by an autism spectrum disorder, a significantly higher rate than reported in previous years. However, children with autism throughout New York State have been routinely denied insurance benefits for treatment of their disorder, forcing their parents to pay for these therapy costs.   The early diagnosis and treatment afforded by this legislation will actually cut long term health care and special education costs, saving taxpayers $13 million per year in expenses that could be prevented by early intervention.

Senator Nozzolio’s legislation will require insurance policies to provide comprehensive coverage for individuals with autism spectrum disorder throughout their entire life span. The legislation received strong bi-partisan support in both the State Senate and the State Assembly.

“There are literally thousands of families in the Finger Lakes region affected by autism,” said Senator Nozzolio. “This legislation is an important step forward for New York to become a leader in providing services and ensuring protections for those with autism.”

Senator Nozzolio has long been a committed advocate for individuals and families living with autism. He helped to establish the Happiness House Autism Evaluation Center in order to provide families with comprehensive diagnosis and treatment options right here in the Finger Lakes region. In April, he also helped open the new Autism Center at the Ontario County ARC in Canandaigua.

As increased awareness and early diagnosis of autism presents challenges and issues which must be addressed, it is essential that we continue to support additional programs and services for families dealing with this diagnosis,” said Senator Nozzolio. “I will continue to advocate for those affected by this disorder and fight for legislation to provide needed health care services for these children.”