Assemblyman Gary Schaer, chairman of the Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance, held a hearing on March 7, 2013 to gather information about the difficulty that people with Autism and other disabilities have in acquiring insurance protections and access to appropriate supportive services.

Parents testified that they have gone into debt in order to provide the appropriate therapies for their children with disabilities. At least three of the parents who testified were doctoral level professionals, yet they noted that they were overwhelmed by the maze of complicated compliances that hindered their son or daughter’s progress. One
parent testified that she and her husband had to pay more than $7,000 per month in order to provide the appropriate supportive services for their child.

Speech/language therapy, along with physical and occupational therapy, are difficult to provide. In addition, providing behavioral therapy for their child appears to be the biggest challenge for parents. A common complaint is that even when the families have purchased extensive policies to ensure the delivery of the needed services, insurance companies often fail to pay off. Insurance companies find it convenient to not grant policies to those with disabilities, and work to withhold needed services when claims are made by policy holders, it was suggested.

In recent years, this issue has been addressed by both Houses of the State Legislature. It has been asserted that, historically, insurance companies have denied the delivery of behavioral, occupational, physical, speech and other therapies to people with developmental and other disabilities. Service providers have argued that such services are educational, rather than medical. Yet, the families have replied that service delivery and therapy within the aforementioned areas are necessary for individuals with developmental disabilities to achieve any reasonable level of a quality of life.

Assemblyman Schaer remains committed to resolving the dilemma and bringing some degree of relief to the families of children with Autism and other developmental disabilities. It was suggested during the hearing that this dilemma is part of a national problem and serves as an example of the disparity between the level of civil, human and due process rights that are granted to people with disabilities as opposed to the non-
disabled population.

Chairman Schaer has noted that his committee will re-visit the issue in six months in order to measure whether there has been any progress in the effort of the families and the insurance companies to resolve the issue.