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Rally Today at Capitol for Autism Insurance Coverage

May 31, 2007

Madison, WI - People with autism and their families are rallying at the State Capitol today in support of a Senate Bill 178. If it passes, it would require insurance companies to cover treatments for autism. Rally organizer Rhonda Wood is the mother of a child with autism, and spokesperson for the group Wisconsin Organizing 4 Autism Rights. Wood says the state currently provides some treatment, but there's a catch -- a waiting list as long a year.

"If you think about a child who's four years old, that's a huge developmental time period. Early intervention works best with kids, and so the earlier and the quicker they can receive treatment, the better the outcome is. No one's told with diabetes that they have to wait for treatment, and we're asking for the same consideration for our children with autism."

The insurance industry opposes the measure, saying it would drive up premium costs; Wood counters with the high long-term costs of leaving autism untreated.

Jennifer Ondrejka, of the Wisconsin Council on Developmental Disabilities, feels the law is a good idea, and points out that it's not just autism receiving a cold shoulder from insurance companies.

"There are many other kids with disabilities, and there are also adults with mental illnesses, who have never had coverage by their insurance companies. We'd like to see all of them covered."

In Wisconsin, there is currently no state law requiring insurers to cover autism, developmental disabilities, mental illness, or addiction treatment. The rally, at 8:00 AM, precedes a public hearing at 9:30 AM on Senate Bill 178.

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WI