Thursday, February 26, 2009

Autism Thursday in Annapolis Part 1

Over the past few months, I've reported about the efforts of several states to pass legislation to mandate insurance coverage for autism therapy. But it was thrilling today to see my own state undertake this important cause.

At noon, we gathered at the area outside the State Capitol called "Lawyers Mall" (how appropriate). There may have been some lawyers there, but most of the crowd of 100 or so were parents and other regular people who are affected by autism in some way. Several elected officials who spoke deserve a lot of credit for their strong leadership -- Attorney General Doug Gansler (who has a nephew with autism), Delegate Kirill Reznik (who sponsored House Bill 273), and Senator Kathy Klausmeier (who sponsored Senate Bill 394).

After the rally, we attended the two hearings, first for the Senate bill and then for the House bill. I testified at the second hearing, the House Health & Government Operations Committee, about my family's experience with autism therapy. In preparing my testimony, I learned that it's hard to say much in three minutes. Something I wanted to say, but didn't have time to, is that my wife and I are fortunate that we've found a way to pay for these services. And we're fortunate that our daughter was able to get into a specialized preschool at age 2. I didn't testify to ask the insurance companies for a handout -- I just want more families to have access to the services that our daughter has benefited from.

It looks like this will be an uphill battle, with opposition led by the insurance companies. But I'm optimistic. Think about it: Who's side would you rather be on -- the insurance industry? Or parents, therapists, doctors, scientists, doctors, and advocates like Autism Speaks and Easter Seals?

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