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 legislation – co-sponsored in the State Senate by Senators Neil Breslin and Thomas Duane, as well as Charles Fuschillo, Jr., and in the Assembly by Assemblyman Joe Morelle and Speaker Sheldon Silver – received overwhelming bi-partisan support, with unanimous passage in both the State Senate and Assembly.
“We urge the autism community to call Governor Paterson (518-474-8390) and express their disappointment,” said Peter Bell, executive vice president of programs and services for Autism Speaks. “Contact your State Senator and Assemblymember and insist that they see through their commitment to the enactment of this critical legislation and call for an override.” (visit Autism Votes to find your local legislator)
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.
Twenty-three states have already enacted legislation to end insurance companies’ discrimination against people with autism. Governor Paterson is only the second governor in the United States to veto such legislation, joining South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who vetoed Ryan’s Law in June, 2007. The S.C. legislature subsequently overrode Sanford’s veto and Ryan’s Law was enacted.
To learn more about Autism Votes, an initiative of Autism Speaks focused on federal and state legislative advocacy, please visit www.autismvotes.org.