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New Jersey lawmaker hopes to clarify 2009 autism law

New Jersey readers might be surprised to learn that the Garden State was one of the first in the country to require insurance providers to include autism in their coverage plans. The mandate is contained in a 2009 state law. However, the statute may not contemplate every type of autism diagnosis.

For example, some researchers refer to Asperger's syndrome as a type of high-functioning autism. Pervasive developmental disorders are also sometimes classified as autism spectrum disorders. Even social communication, sensory integration or central auditory processing disorders might be classified as autism-related.

Yet autism typically affects patients in unique ways and in varying degrees of severity. Common symptoms, such as communication and interaction difficulties, manifest differently in different individuals. For this reason -- its idiosyncratic symptoms -- autism is called a spectrum disorder.

At least one local lawmaker hopes to clarify the 2009 law. Assemblywoman Donna Simon has introduced a proposal that would qualify all types of autism disorders for eligibility under the 2009 law. Parents of autistic children will be relieved to know that coverage for special therapies -- speech, occupational, behavioral and physical -- would be covered under the proposal.

The proposal is of particular relief to parents who might be excluded by the income ceiling set by the Social Security Administration for Supplemental Security Income payments for disabled children. SSI benefits are typically determined by both disability and financial need. Without the 2009 law, some autistic children might have fallen in a disability benefits gap: ineligible for SSI as children, and lacking an adequate work history to qualify for Social Security disability insurance income as adults.

Source: nj.com, "Simon proposal would ensure treatment for all children within autism spectrum," April 1, 2013

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