Friday, May 29, 2009

WI Autism Insurance - Excellent News!

NOTE: For more information, including links to all my posts on autism insurance in Wisconsin, visit Wisconsin Autism Insurance - Updates from Elvis Sightings

Insurance coverage for autism in the state of Wisconsin moved a big step closer to becoming a reality last night.

I've been keeping up a running update on the progress of the initiative at my February 19 post, which was when JoyDad did his public hearing testimony.

Recap in a nutshell - this is now the second biennium in which autism insurance in Wisconsin has made it to the stage of serious legislative consideration. In 2007 it was stymied in the Wisconsin Assembly, which then had a Republican majority, at the eleventh hour.

This year, after the 2008 elections which left both the Wisconsin Senate AND Assembly with Democratic majorities (plus a Democrat for a governor as well), the measure was introduced early in the session, as AB15 in the Assembly and SB3 in the Senate.

Both measures were referred to committee, and public hearings were held. The Senate committee recommended the measure back to the Senate unanimously. The Assembly committee should have had the votes to pass it as well, but were held up by one Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer (D), who had some concerns with the language of the bill.

Then the measure was taken out of those committees' purview altogether, and went to the Joint Finance Committee, where the ugly details of the state budget are being hashed out as I type (Wisconsin, like every other state, is being socked by the economic downspiral). The JFC is moving quickly to make the sausage, packing multiple motions into large omnibus packages.

One such package, labeled as Motion 700, passed last night just before 10:30pm. The autism bill is included, on pages 20-22.

This will now be part of the budget bill that goes back to both houses, rather than continuing as the separate measure that was AB15/SB3. With the support of the governor and the majority leadership in both houses the way they stand, it would be very difficult to kill the autism insurance provision now, given the support it enjoys from the leadership in both houses and from Governor Doyle. From reading the live-blogging at the WisPolitics budget blog, it looks like the (failed) minority-party challenges to the motion were all about other things, leaving the autism provision alone.

The optimistic plan is to have a final budget passed by sometime in July mid-June, such that it can be signed by the governor and in force by July 1. Then again, this has been the hope every time around, but the success rate at keeping to the July 1 deadline has been abysmal. I will continue the picky updates, which I imagine are less-than-fascinating to many of my readers, simply because my Google search records indicate that people are coming to Elvis Sightings to find information on autism insurance in Wisconsin, and I think it's important to be able to trace the progress SOMEWHERE in exhaustive detail.

Big thumbs up this morning. I think it's gonna happen.

Links to prior related posts:
3/15/2009: WI Assembly Hearing on 2009 Autism Insurance Bill AB15
2/7/2009: More About Wisconsin Autism Insurance Legislation
1/11/2009: 2009 WI Senate Bill 3


Anonymous said...

You do a great job of explaining this process, JM. I esp like how you contextualize THE issue of interest within the bigger picture of sausage-making. You make it look less messy than I imagine. Also looks hopeful in the waning hours of the available time in the kitchen.

AuntieS said...

I'm tentatively putting my thumbs up for ya too!! I'll hold a little skepticism until it is actually and truly put into law!!! But, looking good!

Anonymous said...

i am so impressed that you can stay on top of all of this. on behalf of all of us, WI residents or no, THANK YOU for your efforts on behalf of those with autism.


JoyDad said...

It helps that I play a (very small) part in the making of the sausage, although not the part of the sausage that deals with insurance coverage for autism services... I have to stay on top of the process, whether I want to or not.

And yes, I think JoyMama is doing a valuable services in providing the running commentary!

JoyMama said...

Yes, JoyDad deserves the credit for keeping me apprised of the latest and greatest. Makes for good teamwork.

StatMama said...

This sounds very hopeful!

Anonymous said...

I know it's good-ish news for those w-autism, but the bigger picture is that vaccine manufacturers get away with it. As an RN, I've done my homework and there is clear indication that the MMR especially is to blame. (As well as dietary issues.) It scares me to see patients with seizures that developed them about 1 month after MMR, and no doctor connecting the dots for the parents.

As for Doyle, I along with 65% of the population in WI, am sick of him. I am part of the recall effort, This insuranc eissue is only a tiny part of the huge picture, which includes the fourth-highest deficit in the nation, at 6.67 billion.

Anonymous said...

Am thrilled, too! But July 1 deadline? When was the last time they honored that? I can't remember.

-- melvin

JoyMama said...

BRatK, AuntieS, jesswilson, StatMama, melvin - encouragement much appreciated! I will continue the updates, though I probably won't make a separate post again until the actual budget vote happens.

auntie em - thank you for taking the time to comment here. It may or may not surprise you that while I appreciate Gov. Doyle's efforts on the autism insurance issue, I am no big fan of his in general. However, recalls are for major malfeasance or even crimes, not policy disagreements -- that's why we have elections. In fact, I think we will have to agree to disagree on pretty much everything in your comment.

Anonymous said...

I have a three year old son with autism and I have followed the ups and downs of this since his diagnosis...there's a lot of time when you are technically wait listed to get on a waitlist. I am grateful for what our state has done for my son. The future sons and daughters of families will never EVER have to be told, your child has autism and we have this great tool to help you fight the odds, oh but guess what, it's $40,000 a year; too bad you can't afford it and insurance won't cover it. My question is my son is on the waiting list and it looks as though his number will be called up by the end of this year. If the law is passed, will the state continue to take kids off that list until the law takes effect? We have waited so long now I can't stand to get shuffled aside for another three months. I want my cake and I want to eat it too!!! :)

JoyMama said...

Anonymous - my understanding is that for the rest of 2009, the wait list should move along as usual. The law is passed but it will take months for the Insurance Commission to figure out the implementation rules. I have been told that the target date for implementation is January 1, when insurance companies would begin their new plan-year.

You didn't say in your message whether you do or don't have insurance. I think there's probably going to be some "interesting" transition time when the implementation begins to take effect. Families like mine, where we're currently receiving intensive treatment via the waiver program but we DO have insurance, ideally would be able to keep going with our current service provider but with insurance as the new funding source. That means our waiver slot would technically "open up" for someone currently on the waitlist, because now those state dollars would be available as our insurance picks up our daughter's tab. In addition, families currently on the wait list who have insurance would suddenly have those insurance funds available to go ahead and get started! Families on the wait list WITHOUT insurance should be able to move into the waiver slots that families like ours open up, plus moving up in the list due to the insured families who won't be on the list any more.

It will be a challenge (to put it mildly) for current service providers to staff up and add the extra capacity for the sudden deluge of new clients as 2009 turns over into 2010. There will surely be glitches along the way, and further delays as whatever problems arise.

However, I've also heard that the waitlist under the current system has been moving faster than expected... I hope that continues to be true, for your sake and others'.

I hear you about the wait time before the wait list. We had about a 4-month lag ourselves.

Best wishes!!