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Former Autism Speaks Exec. Confirms Insurance and Pharma Lobbying Firm Wrote Controversial NY Autism Insurance Bill

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Singer Confirms Autism Speaks Insurance Lobbyists Drafted Controversial NY Bill

In an extraordinary letter published earlier this week in the Scarsdale Patch, Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, confirmed that a controversial autism insurance bill in New York, S7000B/A1037A, currently awaiting signature or veto by Governor David Paterson was indeed drafted by insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists Mannatt, Phelps and Phillips who are representing Autism Speaks’ lobbying efforts in New York.

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Singer’s statements contradicts assertions made by staffers in the offices of New York State Senator Neil Breslin, sponsor of the bill in the New York Senate and Chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, and staffers for Joseph Morelle, sponsor of the bill in the New York Assembly, and Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, who have repeatedly asserted that they drafted the bill.

Manatt Phelps and Phillips is part of a group of firms that represent more than 150 insurance companies including Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield of California, and drug giants Merck, Pfizer among others, and also represents Autism Speaks in many of their state-level autism insurance lobby activities.

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Singer also attacked Westchester County Legislator and New York Assembly Candidate Tom Abinanti for criticizing S7000B/A10372A. Abinanti is the father of a son diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and has been working for autism health insurance reform for years.

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Abinanti has been a vocal critic of S7000B/A10372A, but has worked tirelessly to pass another bill, A6888, which has been endorsed by the vast majority of autism organizations in New York, including the Autism Society of America, SAFEMINDS, Autism Action Network, National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter, and the Foundation for Autism Information and Research among many others.

Abinanti has argued that the insurance company bill would partially repeal non-discrimination law passed in 2006, and unlike other state legislation does not specifically identify any therapies that would be covered, it requires autism treatments to satisfy efficacy requirements that apply to no other health disorder under New York law and are the toughest of any law passed in any state, and the bill would prevent local governments from recovering some costs from insurers allowed under current law.

The New York Occupational Therapy Association has asked Gov. Paterson to veto S7000B/A10372A because they concluded that it would not allow coverage of occupational therapy, and the New York State Speech, Hearing and Language Association has released a statement saying that they do not believe that speech therapy would be covered by the bill either.

Singer is the president of the Autism Science Foundation, which she co-founded with vaccine developer, promoter and entrepreneur Paul Offit. Singer is also a former executive of Autism Speaks, which has been aggressively lobbying in Albany for passage of  S7000B/A10372A.

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