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Legislation to change insurance coverage for autism has advocates split

By By EMMA WRIGHT

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKTV) - Governor Paterson will soon decide whether to sign or veto legislation that would require insurance companies to cover screening, diagnosis, and lifetime treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and Assembly.

There is no cure for autism and some treatments can be controversial. Under the bill, insurance would cover treatments that are widely-accepted and medically proven.

Executive Director of the Kelberman Center Helen Stepowany says the bill is a good idea. She says an autism diagnosis isn't cheap and sees plenty of parents who struggle to pay for the screenings, counseling, and physical and speech therapies, just to name a few.

"One of the things we know is, the cost can be minimized by early effective treatment," Stepowany said.

However, not all autism advocates agree with the bill.

The Foundation for Autism Information and Research says the bill might raise state costs or make it easier for insurance companies to reject treatment.

Assemblyman Joe Griffo says the bill might not be perfect but current insurance coverage is inadequate.

"Many families are being financially overburdened," Griffo said. "I think this is a step forward."

"Insurance companies are supposed to help families in times of crisis, and this legislation will ensure that they fulfill their responsibilities," Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito said in a statement.

If Governor Paterson signs the bill into law, New York will join 22 other states with similar legislation.

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