Blagojevich alters insurance bill to cover autism therapy
By Monique Garcia | Chicago Tribune reporter
When Brianna Dicianni was diagnosed with autism two years ago, doctors said the girl would never learn to speak.
Undeterred, her family sought therapy, only to run into another roadblock: Because their insurance company didn’t cover treatment for autism, they would have to pay for the costly sessions out of pocket.
Brianna’s parents borrowed against their home, dipped into college savings for their three children and—$80,000 later—Brianna, now 5, can talk.
On Sunday, Gov. Rod Blagojevich moved to help families like the Diciannis, using his amendatory veto power to alter legislation so insurance companies would be required to cover diagnosis and various therapies for autistic children.
“The billion-dollar profits of insurance companies are being put before our children, and it’s wrong, it’s criminal,” said Brianna’s father, Peter Dicianni.
The legislation would force insurance companies to cover up to $36,000 a year in occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapies in addition to psychiatric and psychological services. Children would be covered until they turned 21.
Proponents of the legislation said early treatment is vital to the development of children with autism. By undergoing therapy early in life, they are more likely to gain the communication and social skills needed to live independent lives.
“This is literally about whether a child can grow up and live a good and happy life, or whether a child will grow up and be in his own isolated world, unable to communicate,” Blagojevich said at a news conference announcing the legislation.
For Peter Dicianni, the governor’s action comes after more than a year of lobbying lawmakers and insurance companies to cover autism treatments. But hurdles still remain. Lawmakers in both chambers must approve the governor’s changes.