Press Release

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

Oct 5, 2009

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.

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.”

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.

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