Autism Insurance Reform Laws

In 2004, the New York Times wrote that “no disability claims more parental time and energy than autism.” Families dealing with autism face many hardships, not the least of which is financial hardship. One reason for the financial hardship has been the failure of the health insurance industry to cover treatments for, and sometimes even diagnosis of, autism. As recently as the turn of the millennium, it was widely accepted that health insurance did not cover even the standard treatments for autism. 
 
Sadly, few individuals with autism reach their potential because, in the absence of consistent funding, most do not have access to treatment that is appropriate in quality and quantity. Appropriate care is both difficult to find and difficult to afford. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality wrote that the “delivery and organization of care for ASD is very fragmented, with pieces scattered about in the primary care, school, and specialty clinical settings. It is left to the families and caregivers of patients with ASD to find and assemble these pieces.” In this address, Lorri Unumb will share her personal parental experience with her son’s autism diagnosis and how it led her into full-time advocacy on behalf of individuals with autism, including assistance in the passage of more than 40 autism insurance laws across the country. 
 
Learning Objectives:
  1. Understand why health insurance has historically denied insurance coverage for ABA.
  2. Identify different types of health insurance policies and learn which are affected by state laws mandating coverage for autism treatment.
  3. Understand what barriers still exist to appropriate ABA access for individual with autism.

Lorri Shealy Unumb (YOU-numb)
Vice President, State Government Affairs, Autism Speaks

Lorri Unumb is a lawyer, professor, mother of three boys, and a renowned autism advocate. A former litigator with the U.S. Department of Justice, Lorri started in autism advocacy as a volunteer, writing ground-breaking legislation for South Carolina (“Ryan’s Law”) that served as the catalyst for the national autism insurance movement. In recognition of Ryan’s Law, Lorri received the Autism Society of America 2008 “Parents of the Year” award. She was then recruited to work for the New York-based nonprofit Autism Speaks and has testified 100+ times on health insurance issues throughout the USA and beyond.

In 2010, Lorri founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina, a non-profit treatment center for children with autism. Lorri and her husband also wrote the first-ever comprehensive textbook on autism legal issues, “Autism and the Law.”  Additionally, Lorri is in her 11th year of conducting the annual “Autism Law Summit,” a national gathering of parents and professionals who advocate for better autism laws and policies.

Lorri’s work has been profiled on CNN, on NPR, and in Town&Country magazine, from whom she received one of three 2009 “Women Who Make a Difference” awards.  She is profiled in the American Academy of Pediatrics book “Autism Spectrum Disorders:  What Every Parent Needs to Know.”