Rendell Declares Autism Mandate a Failure

In 2008, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed, and Gov. Rendell signed, a new mandate that private insurers would have to cover autism services. At the time, we said the new mandate would drive up insurance premiums, should be offered as an optional rider, and suggested vouchers for autistic children instead.

Gov. Rendell, however, suggested the mandate would actually save taxpayers, saying in his signing statement,

“By requiring private health insurers to shoulder their fair share of the cost of treatment, we’re taking steps to address the gap in the private insurance market and reduce reliance on government programs as the primary source of services and funding.â€? [emphasis added].

But now Rendell is saying we have to increase, not reduce state spending on autism services. He blasts the Senate Republicans for proposing to spend “only” $14.8 million on the line-item. In reality, the Senate budget would spend $19.1 million – using federal stimulus funds to supplement state funds – but don’t expect Gov. Rendell to give the straight facts.

That total actual represents about the same as 2008-09 spending (after Rendell’s freeze, which reduced the autism line item by $3.7 million, and later revision to the actual spending), and a whopping $9.2 million increase (92%) over 2007-08, when Rendell signed the autism mandate.

I guess it is pretty fair to say that if a 92% increase in autism spending in two years isn’t enough, then we have not “reduced reliance on government programs”