Autism at Shriver, part 2: New center offers vital insurance information

Autism Insurance Resource Center will support Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism legislation

By Ellie Castano

UMass Medical School Communications

April 06, 2011
weinstock_podium

Shriver Center LEND alumna Amy Weinstock addresses supporters gathered at Fenway Park to witness the signing into law of the ARICA bill by Gov. Deval Patrick, right. She is the director of the newly established Autism Insurance Resource Center.


Photo by Judith Ursitti

This week, as part of National Autism Awareness Month, UMassMedNow is highlighting some of the interesting research, education and service programs at UMass Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center in Waltham. Read part 1:Teens get moving, have fun. Also see how theMedical School’s building turned blue on Friday, April 1, for World Autism Awareness Day. 

In March of this year, the UMass Medical School Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center announced the establishment of the Autism Insurance Resource Center, a unique resource for information about medical insurance for autism treatment. The center will be located within the New England INDEX program that provides comprehensive information for people with disabilities. Massachusetts, joining 24 other states, recently passed legislation that requires private health insurers to cover medically necessary autism treatment, so there is a wellspring of need from consumers, employers, educators and providers that the new center will help fulfill.

The center will be a catalyst in accelerating implementation of the law and obtaining critical treatment for people with autism here in Massachusetts and will serve as a model for other states as well. It will offer a range of resources in a variety of formats, including information and referrals on issues related to insurance coverage for autism-related treatments and services; links to written resources such as legislation, agency bulletins and frequently asked questions; support for employers and individuals with self-funded plans; webinars on insurance laws; and focus groups and training. 

The center will be directed by Amy K. Weinstock, who is the mother of a child with autism and a passionate advocate for autism-related issues. “An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism” or ARICA, was conceived by Weinstock when she was a fellow of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program of the Shriver Center. 

In completing her capstone project for the LEND fellowship, Weinstock researched national insurance policies and practices for applied behavior analysis (ABA), an established behavioral therapy for people with autism. After completing her LEND fellowship, Weinstock became chair of the Insurance Committee for Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts, a position from which she and several other LEND colleagues advocated for passage of the legislation. Weinstock’s grassroots efforts in moving the bill forward included partnering with the national awareness organization Autism Speaks as well as with several state representatives whose own lives were touched by autism spectrum disorder. 

“Our bill is one of the most comprehensive of its kind,” said Weinstock. “Individuals with autism will have coverage for medically necessary treatment with no age caps or dollar limits. ARICA covers people with autism, because they are people with autism, whether they are 2 or 82. And the amount of treatment, just like chemotherapy and radiation for cancer patients, is based on medical necessity, not an arbitrary dollar cap.” 

In addition to her success in advocating for the rights of individuals with autism, Weinstock was recently recognized for her commitment to improving the lives of those with autism spectrum disorder by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. She will be presented with the Doug Flutie, Jr. Award at this year’s annual conference on April 7. 

For more information about the Center, visit www.disabilityinfo.org/arica/ 

Some information in this article was adapted from the Shriver Center Spotlight newsletter; it is used with permission here. 

The series concludes on Friday, April 8, with a look at Shriver’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program that trains clinical and non-clinical professionals to become leaders in advocating and improving services and supports for children and families affected by autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Related Links: 

Autism at Shriver, part 1: Teens get moving, have fun 
Donna Shalala to speak at Commencement 2011 
Blue lights mark Autism Awareness Day 
Passionate advocate links community to Shriver Center