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Jul 16, 2008
Governor Jindal Highlights HB 958, Providing Health Insurance for LA Children with Autism

BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal was joined by Representative Franklin Foil and Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Deputy Secretary Sybil Richard at the Families Helping Families Center of Greater Baton Rouge to highlight the importance of House Bill 958, which works to provide health insurance for children with autism. The bill helps ensure Louisiana families who are affected by autism receive the earliest diagnosis and treatments possible by requiring most private insurers to provide coverage for early detection and treatment of the spectrum disorder.

Governor Jindal said, “We know that 1 out of 150 people are diagnosed with autism today, which means many of our Louisiana children and families are affected by this disorder. Representative Foil’s bill takes a vital step toward helping these families by making treatments for their children more available and more quickly accessible.”

HB 958, now knows as Act 648, requires health insurance coverage of the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for individuals in Louisiana less than 17 years of age. This coverage is subject to maximum benefits of $36,000 per year and $144,000 per lifetime. Act 648 specifically targets coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other structured behavioral therapies, which are the most effective forms of treatment and have the best outcomes, both in behavioral outcomes and in long-term economic benefits. (Individually purchased health insurance policies and any health coverage plan issued to an employer with 50 or fewer employees are exempt from this legislation.)

Representative Foil said, “I am thrilled that Louisiana is taking the lead on helping children with autism.  This legislation will give families more access to expensive, but important, medical treatment.”

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders. Autism typically impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls.  According to these statistics, Louisiana may have more than 6,500 boys and girls with autism that will be positively impacted by the coverage provided by Act 648. 

“This legislation means hundreds of families throughout Louisiana will have unprecedented access to the developmental and health treatments their children need to live successfully with autism,” said DHH Deputy Secretary Sybil Richard. “This legislation is a clear reflection of Governor Jindal’s commitment to leveraging innovative health care policies to meet the needs of Louisiana families.”

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