Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit, today said he is “deeply disappointed” that Gov. David Paterson has vetoed a landmark bill that would have extended health care coverage to families affected by autism.
“This was an opportunity to simply do the right thing for the ever-increasing number of families whose children are diagnosed with autism,” said Morelle, chairman of the state assembly’s Committee on Insurance and the bill’s primary sponsor.
“As insurance chairman, I am always wary of adding new mandates and costs to a health care system that’s already too expensive,” Morelle said. “But parents who pay health care premiums and are dealing with this diagnosis should not be told that treatments for their children are out of reach.”
The Age of Autism applauded the veto:
The bill would have repealed existing anti-discrimination language hard won in 2006, and required that any treatment for autism meet a standard far higher than that required for any other health condition under New York law, or in any other state. “This standard if passed was so onerously high that we could identify no treatments that we were certain would be covered,” said Marcia Roth, a Budget and Policy Analyst with the Autism Action Network, “And it would have created a dangerous precedent that could serve as a model for other states.”
“Costs currently paid by insurers would have been shifted to county and school district taxpayers, said Tom Abinanti, a Westchester County Legislator and Democratic candidate for Assembly in the 69th district (Greenburgh, Pleasantville and parts of Yonkers).
A coalition of more than 30 autism organizations (HERE) had been working to pass another bill, A6888, last year when S7000b was suddenly announced at an Albany at which the only non-legislative people present were representatives of Mannatt, Phelps and Phillips, a national lobbying firm, who represents more than 100 insurance companies, hired by Autism Speaks to lobby on their insurance efforts. Persons familiar with Autism Speaks lobbying efforts confirmed that Manatt was paid at least $100,000 by Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks joined with tens of thousands of families and advocates across New York State to express extreme disappointment in Governor David Paterson’s veto of landmark autism insurance reform legislation – passed unanimously by the state legislature – and challenged the cost projections cited by the governor in justifying his decision. The organization immediately began conferring with key legislative allies to determine a course of action, which could include a call for a post-election session of the legislature and an override effort.
“Today is a sad day for tens of thousands of people with autism and their families, the result of a misguided fiscal decision that will actually cost taxpayers untold millions of dollars in the coming years,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “This is a significant setback, but it is far from the end of the battle. We will not stop fighting until every child with autism in New York State has access to the treatments they need and deserve.”
The governor’s veto memo stated that his decision was based purely on fiscal considerations and not the legislation’s merits. The memo, though, cited inaccurate costs projections. Actuarial reports have concluded that the actual costs to the state and local municipalities would be negligible during the first year and no more than $30 million once fully implemented. Moreover, private insurance policyholders would see minor premium increases of less than 0.65% – far less than the inflated figures included in the memo.