In the midst of the ongoing drama, starring the governor, that
is Illinois politics and a source of national entertainment, it is
truly remarkable that monumental legislative acts affecting the
lives of thousands of families of children with special needs in
our state can be passed. Two bills that directly impact insurance
coverage for children with special needs received overwhelming
bipartisan support in Springfield just prior to publication of this
Illinois Senate Bill 934 has now been enacted into law, and with
any luck, by the time you read this, Senate Bill 101 will be, too.
If this important bill somehow does not become law, we must all
join together to make it happen.
Both bills require private health insurance to cover children's
physician-prescribed disability-related treatment plans for
children, including speech and language, occupational, physical and
Special children need this support. Parents need this support.
Raising children with special needs is difficult enough. Finding
doctors who accurately diagnose and prescribe appropriate therapies
is only the beginning of the journey. Paying for those therapies
without the support of insurance can turn challenges into
The main difference between the bills is that SB-934 focuses on
children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, while SB-101 includes
children with all types of congenital and early onset neurological
disorders. Though the bills seem to overlap, they are both
We needed SB-934 to ensure coverage for the uniquely intense
therapies that are required for children with autism to maximize
their potential. Children with ASD need special protections, but
they only make up 5 percent of the pediatric special needs
population. Now we need SB-101 to protect the needs of the 95
percent of kids with afflictions ranging from cerebral palsy and
other motor disorders to language and cognitive disabilities to
those with sensory impairments and genetic conditions.
The Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has
spearheaded the effort to ensure that all children with
neurological disorders get appropriate medical services that are
protected by law. Enacting both of these bills now will catapult
Illinois to the forefront of nationwide initiatives promoting the
health and treatment of our country's special children.
Practically speaking, these bills will be crucial for the many
families in Illinois who, especially in this recession, cannot
afford to get their children the services they need. Parents
agonize over cutting corners in their children's treatment plans
because they do not have the funds to continue essential early
therapies. Since these interventions can cost tens of thousands of
dollars each year, some parents have no choice but to forgo them
and instead sacrifice a window of opportunity for the brain to
become better wired for their child to function at a higher
Appropriate medical intervention for children with brain
disorders begun at an early age significantly alters outcomes in
adulthood. Treatment can affect an individual's capacity to
function independently, learn, engage with others in meaningful
relationships and, hopefully, secure a job. Providing appropriate
therapy is both morally the right thing to do and it makes economic
We need these bills so that Illinois parents will have the
capacity to provide the care that their children need. And Illinois
will become a better, more caring place, a shining example for the
rest of the country to emulate rather than just being the target of
Now, more than ever, is a really good time for us to make that
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