Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an autism insurance bill into law Tuesday.
On hand was Alexander Smith, 10, left, of Clifton Park, who is autistic.
Albany, New York soon will require insurers to cover screening, diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorders, which will increase premiums for all individuals and businesses.
Supporters say the new law will include routine toddler screenings, behavioral health treatments, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. That should bolster early and effective treatment and save families as much as $50,000 a year in out-of-pocket cost for 30,000 autistic New York children.
The state Health Plan Association estimates the bill, signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will cost an average family "hundreds of dollars" and employers tens of thousands of dollars.
"For some New York families and employers, it could be the added costs that finally price them out of coverage altogether," said Paul Macielak, speaking for the association of health insurers.
The group wants to negotiate changes to reduce coverage and costs before the law takes effect in one year. The measure was vetoed last year by former Gov. David Paterson as too expensive, but Mr. Cuomo said the current bill puts an important $45,000 annual cap on the coverage insurance companies would have to fund.
Supporters agree the bill will increase insurance premiums for all New Yorkers, but they estimate that cost at just $1 a month, while saving schools and governments $13 million a year in special education, Medicaid and social services costs.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the law debated for seven years is "important and highly compassionate" legislation.
The law "showed how important government is ... how powerful government can be," he said.
Medicaid is the main reimbursement source. Some services are provided in public schools and some insurers provide limited coverage. But many parents struggle to pay for other treatment.
The law takes effect Nov. 1, 2012 for insurance policies issued or renewed after that. Autism spectrum disorders impair thinking, feeling, speaking and the ability to relate to others. They range in severity.
An estimated one of every 110 children in the U.S. is affected, mostly boys.