“Yes” to Autism Therapy, “No” to Budget Reform: Brown

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California insurers will have to cover behavioral treatments for autism


Bills Brown Signed, Vetoed Over Weekend

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed a number of bills over the weekend, including a requirement that insurers cover behavioral therapies for people with autism. He also signed measures aimed at curbing bullying and under-age drinking.

Health insurers will be required to pay for key behavioral therapies for people with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders under a bill signed over the weekend by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The treatments help people with autism spectrum disorders learn a wide range of behaviors that may not come naturally to them: a therapist may help an autistic child to learn to eat with utensils or how to make eye contact. Others work on higher level skills, helping people learn how to endure frustrations without erupting in violent tantrums, or how to sit quietly in school.

Once the bill takes effect in 2012, insurers will no longer be able to claim that the treatment is educational rather than medical, and deny it on that basis, said Jamie Court, president of the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog. Court said that judges in several key cases have already ruled that the treatment should be covered.

"It’s a step forward for the rights of autistic families because it doesn’t leave the insurance companies any outs to deny this as educational rather than medical," Court said.

The bill was one of several signed by the governor over the weekend, tackling such varied issues as school bullying, gun control and under-age drinking.  He vetoed a bill aimed at bringing oversight to the state budget process, saying it was a “one size fits all solution” that would cost millions to implement.

The bullying law, authored by Assembly member Tom Ammiato (D-San Francisco), requires school districts in the state to develop formal policies and procedures for preventing and responding to harassment and bullying. It was one of many measures nationwide spurred by incidents of bullying of gay youngsters that were followed by suicide.

Another bill signed by the governor forbids potential employers from running credit reports on every job applicant. Employers can still check credit if an applicant is applying for a management  job or will have access to certain types of financial information.

The governor also agreed with a proposal to make it illegal to carry an unloaded handgun in public places in the state. The bill exempts law enforcement officials and others who are licensed to carry firearms.

And he signed a measure aimed at curbing teen drinking by forbidding the use of self-serve checkout stands for purchases of alcoholic beverages.

Brown vetoed a bill that would have required intensive oversight of the state budget process. The measure, designed to bring so-called “performance metrics”  to the state, would have required each department to figure out just what the benefits were of all of its expenditures, and prove that the effort was worth the cost.

The measure passed the legislature with unanimous support, but Brown said it would cost tens of millions of dollars to implement without solving the state’s real problems.

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