Autism Law Set to Expire Later this Year

In the closing days of Autism Awareness Month, the White House sponsored an Autism Awareness Conference. Senior Adviser to the President, Valerie Jarrett and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius,
spoke to an audience of parents, advocates and experts at an Autism Awareness Month Conference at the White House. The speakers touted the fact that because of Obama’s healthcare reform, children can stay on their parent’s insurance until age twenty-six, an advantage for young adults on the autism spectrum. They also committed themselves to the re-authorization of the Combatting Autism Act
(CAA), which is set to expire in September of 2011.

The original legislation was signed by President Bush back in 2006. With its emphasis being research, with some funding for outreach and awareness education, it established the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to advise the Secretary of HHS on all matters relating to autism and develop and update an annual strategic plan for autism-related research. 

Now, the old structures must be transformed into a new National Institute for Autism Research, with the grant making process streamlined to get the most value for today’s dollars. The CAA law provided for research relating to services and support but was not designed to actually fund them. Several bills have been introduced during recent sessions relating to these services, such as training, restraints and seclusion issues, wandering
disorder and infrastructure, but none of these has passed. 

Comprehensive national legislation is urgently needed to fund these and other vital issues, particularly as Medicare is under attack and our children with autism will age out of the few resources there are. 

And while insurance reform for autism has passed in over 20 states, there is strong popular support for “repeal and replacement,” so CAA 2011 must provide for parity of coverage with other medical conditions and ban all forms of insurance discrimination arising from an autism diagnosis.

In this current political climate where every program is fair game for elimination, passage of CAA 2011 will require a strong grassroots effort. In order to lend your voice to the movement go to: