October 05, 2009

New Numbers Show 1 In 91 Children Suffer from Autism – Gillibrand Renews Call for Quality, Affordable Autism Treatment for Families

According To New Data, An Estimated 48,000 New York Children Are Diagnosed With Autism

Washington, D.C. - New numbers released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that 1 in 91 children suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). According to the new data, an estimated 48,000 children across New York suffer from Autism - more than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand renewed her call today for quality, affordable autism treatment for families. She is pushing legislation that would mandate autism coverage and urging greater federal investment in Autism research.

"The rate in which autism is increasing is alarming," said Senator Gillibrand. "It is vital that we make quality care affordable for families and invest in new research that will benefit the lives of millions. Thousands of New York families are being pushed toward bankruptcy because of the cost of providing autism treatment and special education for their children. We know that early intervention is the best way to ensure a child's long term success. We've come a long way in developing effective treatments to help children living with autism lead healthier, more successful lives, but insurance companies are often refusing to pay for it. Families simply can't afford to spend thousands of dollars each month to give their child the care they need."

The study, published today in Pediatrics based on the results of a survey of more than 78,000 parents, showed that 1 in 91 children are currently diagnosed with autism - an estimated 637,000 children nationwide. Previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers had reported a rate of 1 in 150 children suffer from autism. A new case of autism is diagnosed every 20 minutes - making it the fastest-growing serious developmental condition in America. Despite autism's far reach, insurance companies still deny families coverage for necessary treatments - costing them up to $6,000 out-of-pocket each month.

To help improve the lives of children and families living with autism, Senator Gillibrand released a three point plan in June of this year that called for quality, affordable autism treatment for families: 

1. Mandate Insurance Companies to Cover Autism
Senator Gillibrand is pushing the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act with Senator Dick Durbin which would require all private insurers nationwide to cover evidence-based, medically-necessary autism treatments and therapies - including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.

ABA is a scientifically validated treatment program for autism, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Academy of Sciences. ABA therapy is proven effective, but only at the recommended levels of 25-40 hours a week - a level that can cost families up to $6,000 each week. The Autism Treatment Acceleration Act would make sure families can get the treatment their children need through coverage they can afford.

2. Ensure TRICARE Covers Autism for Military Families
TRICARE - the military health insurance program - currently considers ABA therapy special education and not medically necessary treatment, and caps coverage for ABA at $3,000 a month. That amounts to only 16 hours of therapy a month - a fraction of what's necessary to actually improve the life of a child suffering from autism. Senator Gillibrand authored and introduced the USA Heroes Act to require TRICARE to cover autism treatment, including ABA therapy to help military families get the care their children need.

3. Increase Federal Investments for Autism Research
Cutting-edge research holds the potential to help children suffering with autism live better, healthier lives, and one day lead to a cure. Senator Gillibrand is calling for a portion of the $10 billion that was allocated under the Economic Recovery plan for the NIH, be dedicated to research ASD. With better funded research, scientists and laboratories will have the resources they need to reach breakthroughs to improve care - helping children with autism get the care they need in early stages and help them live long, healthy, successful lives.

To watch Senator Gillibrand discuss her plan to help families struggling to afford autism treatment and special education, click here.