Governor Doyle, Hundreds of Milwaukee Families Demand Autism Treatment

Call on Legislature to Side with Wisconsin Families, Not Insurance Companies


GREENDALE – Joined by over 200 children, families, scientists and advocates, Governor Jim Doyle today urged the legislature to mandate insurance companies to cover treatment for children affected by autism.  Seventeen other states require insurance companies to cover autism treatments.  As many as a half-million Americans under the age of 21 are autistic, equating to 1 in every 150 children who are affected by this disease. 


“Even though Autism is a disease almost like any other, insurance companies refuse to provide coverage,” Governor Doyle said.  “By requiring insurance companies to cover autistic children, my proposal will help provide the care and support that children across our state living with autism need and deserve, and help take the squeeze off the families that support them.  I hope the Legislature will follow my lead, work together in a bipartisan way and stand with the children and families of Wisconsin and not the big insurance companies.”   


Until recently, autism was considered a life-long disability with poor prognosis.  Now, with early and appropriate treatment children can see dramatic improvements.  Many people with autism are able to live, work and play in their communities.


In 2004, Governor Doyle directed his office to create a Task Force on Autism to develop policy recommendations on the provision of autism services in Wisconsin.


The Governor’s budget includes $83.4 million for autism services and requires insurance companies to cover autistic children. 


The number of children with autism receiving special education services in Wisconsin schools has increased more than 20-fold from 203 in the 1992-93 school year to 4,361 in the 2004-05 school year.  To ease the burden on local school districts, the Governor’s budget adds an additional $50 million in special education funding – the largest increase in support for special education in nearly 15 years.           

Wisconsin began covering intensive in-home behavioral treatment under the state’s fee-for-service Medical Assistance program in 1994.  Four states including Wisconsin, Colorado, Indiana and Maryland are currently operating Medicaid waivers covering home and community-based services, specifically for children with autism.  Of these states, Wisconsin spends the most on autism services.

Persons with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have impairments in social, communicative, and behavior development that typically are present before age three and are often accompanied by abnormalities in cognitive functioning, learning, attention, and sensory processing.


ASD’s include a number of specific diagnoses including Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disability-Not Otherwise Specified, Rett’s Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.