I got a whole bunch of search engine hits yesterday looking for information about the pending legislation for autism insurance in Wisconsin, due to my post last month about the bill introduced in the Wisconsin Senate (SB3). There was a segment on the show Here and Now on public television last night, and other news coverage I'm sure. Things seem to be happening fairly quickly.
So, here's what I know.
The original author of the bill, Senator Judy Robson, introduced a substitute amendment yesterday (Feb. 6), with some added particulars. In my last post, I mentioned the lack of a dollar cap. That has been addressed in the new version:
The coverage provided must be at least $60,000 for intensive−level services per year per insured, with a minimum of 30 to 35 hours of care per week for a minimum duration of four years, and at least $30,000 for post−intensive−level services per year per insured. Beginning in 2011, the minimum coverage monetary amounts will be adjusted annually to reflect changes in the medical consumer price index.
Another shortcoming of the previous version of the bill was that it did not specifically mention speech-therapy or occupational-therapy services, a common insurance exclusion. The new version does specifically include these.
There is still no age cap mentioned -- this is deliberate. The intent is for insurance coverage across the lifespan. Apparently there were shenanigans in Texas after the law was passed and it went to the insurance commissioner to hammer out the administrative details, at which point an age limit was imposed. Ugly result; I understand, though, that in this state the Autism Society of Wisconsin is on the case.
The expectation for this framing of the autism insurance proposal is that it will result in approximately 1/3 of the kids currently covered by the Medicaid waiver in Wisconsin (the intensive autism therapy program that provides Joy's House Blend) being covered by insurance instead. Very helpful for the wait list!
There is a public Senate Committee hearing on the bill this coming Monday, Feb. 9, at the Capitol in Madison at 10am. JoyDad and I are unfortunately tied up at work, but I hope there's a good showing.
Here's a link to more information about the progress of Senate Bill 3 (the legislative history).
The companion bill, introduced in the Assembly, is Assembly Bill 15.
If you would like to sign up for e-mail updates on these bills (or any Wisconsin legislation), you can do so with the Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service.
You can also check the Wisconsin Autism Insurance Now site, which does a good job with talking points, but perhaps not so good with up-to-the-minute updates. What I've written here is, as of today, much more current than what they've got up.
I think it's time for Wisconsinites to start writing letters / sending e-mails / making phone calls to state representatives...
I should perhaps also mention that there's a Republican response out there as well. This seems to entail throwing just enough money at the Medicaid waiver program in a one-shot pacification maneuver to get people to stop talking about insurance, without any ongoing support for future years or for what happens after the intensive phase is done. Weak.
Last time I posted an outdated link to a map of autism insurance initiatives. Here is one from Autism Speaks that is much more current, and allows one to sign up for e-mail alerts in their own state.
Money is tight, in Wisconsin and everywhere. But I think we've got momentum this time.
Update Feb. 12: It looks like the Senate committee hearing on Monday had good attendance and lots of personal testimony. For the record, here is a link to the streaming video of committee proceedings. The committee voted unanimously the following day to recommend the bill back to the full Senate for passage. Bipartisanship, can you even believe it?! SB3 as amended is now awaiting scheduling for a Senate vote.
Update Feb. 19: See more recent post about the hearing on the Wisconsin Assembly version of the bill, AB15.