Families touched by autism are calling on lawmakers to mandate insurance coverage for treatments. That was the central theme of a hearing at the Capitol on Thursday, where several families with members suffering from autism testified on a bill that requires insurance companies to pay for treatments.

Susan Giaimothe mother of an autistic son, says the lack of coverage doesn't make sense when insurance companies pay for all kinds of treatments that may not even work. She says many autism treatments have proven to be effective, but many families have to pay for them out of pocket because insurance won't pay for them.

Judy Endow has suffered from autism for most of her life. Treatment helped her earn a master's degree, but she still spends a great deal of money on basic medical care because insurance won't cover her special needs. Endow says the simplest thing like getting her teeth cleaned or having blood drawn requires being sedated because of the sensory issues associated with autism. Such extra medical steps end up coming out of her own pocket because her insurance won't pay for them. Endow says not covering treatments for autism is just discriminatory.

The state does provide a program that can help families pay for autism treatment programs. But many attending the public hearing complained that the waiting list for waivers is backed up for years and kids can get bumped off the list if parents try to pay for any extra treatments.

Several other states have implemented their own mandate on insurance companies to provide autism treatments. Supporters admit the mandate has lead to a roughly one-percent increase for insurance premiums in those states. 

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (MP3 1:03)

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