Friday, August 7, 2009

Senate Committee Hears Testimony on Autism

From the August 7, 2009, edition of Autism Speaks e-Speaks Newsletter:

"U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, chaired a hearing Wednesday, August 5 on the state of autism research, treatments and interventions. Senator Harkin was joined by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senators heard testimony from Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health; Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer for Autism Speaks; and four parents of children with autism, Joshua Cobbs, chair of the Iowa Autism Council, Nicole Akins Boyd, vice chair of the Mississippi Autism Task Force, David Miller, board member of the Northern Virginia Community College, and Dana Halverson, co-founder of BEAT-Iowa. Click here to view the hearing on"

Paul's Comment: I watched a repeat of the testimony on Tuesday night on C-SPAN. They all did a wonderful job presenting their positions on the needs of the autism community. At several points, there was some light friction between Dr. Insel and some of the others about NIMH's research agenda. It is well worth watching, but I would recommend having some tissues with you when you do.

However, while Chairperson Harkin and Ranking Republican Thad Cochran were very sympathetic and supportive, at one point they leaned towards each other and suggested that they might want to introduce a bill to end insurance discrimination against people on the autism spectrum. This was extremely disheartening, because they apparently didn't know (or remember) that the House Energy and Commerce Committee had adopted an amendment to this effect to President Obama's Health Care Reform effort last week and a similar effort in the Senate had already been effectively killed.
House Energy and Commerce Committee passed an autism insurance reform amendment to “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,” H.R. 3200, sponsored by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Chairman of the Congressional Autism Research and Education Caucus in the House. Link to article.

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