A landmark, bipartisan bill expanding the treatment of autism was given final approval by the Colorado State Senate and is on its way to the Governor. Senate Bill 244, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) and State Representative Dianne Primavera (D-Broomfield), will require health insurance providers to cover assessment, diagnosis and treatment of autism, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a substantially researched and favored behavioral treatment for autism spectrum disorders. This bill will require health insurance plans to include autism as a covered benefit.
Autism is extremely expensive to treat; the estimated lifetime cost of caring for a person with autism ranges from $3.5 to $5 million. However, if the appropriate early intervention treatments are applied, up to two-thirds of the cost for treatment can be avoided.
“The passage of this bill is a triumph for the most vulnerable among us; those who we, as a society, have a responsibility to protect,” said Sen. Shaffer. “Autism is treatable, but these families should not face this alone. This bill will finally make healthcare manageable for those with autism disorders and their families.”
After the bill passed the Senate, Betty Lehman, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Colorado and a key architect of the bill, thanked individuals with autism in Colorado, their families and their providers, indicating their continued support ensured the bill’s passage. The Autism Society asked those affected by autism in Colorado to contact their legislators to encourage a yes vote on the bill, to great effect. Lehman also thanked the lawmakers that recognized the impact of the bill on Colorado families affected by autism.
“This bill will have a tremendous impact on the lives of people with autism and their families. It will also alleviate some of the financial burden on the public education, public health care programs, and social services systems in our state,” said Lehman.
Michael Zeitlin, Board President of the Autism Society of Colorado, acknowledged the landmark bill would not have been possible without the hard work of the bill sponsors and Betty Lehman.
“Except for Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer and State Representative Dianne Primavera, Betty Lehman was the single most important person involved in shepherding this bill through the entire legislative process, winning approval in both houses of the legislature and vetting about 50 amendments negotiated by various interest groups,” said Zeitlin.
The bill now awaits action by the Governor. If SB 244 is signed, Colorado will become only the 11th state requiring insurance providers to cover treatments for autism. The Autism Society of Colorado is excited to have worked diligently for legislation that improves the quality of life for people with autism and their families.