Monday, July 28, 2008

making a difference: Ryan's Law

Faculty_unumb Many of you are acquainted with Lorri Unumb, who has directed LRW programs at George Washington and at Charleston. When their son Ryan was diagnosed with autism five years ago, she and her husband Dan quickly learned that medical insurance does not cover most costs of treatment for autistic children, even though most policies do not contain a specific exclusion. This link to a story on CNN tells how Lorri "wrote a bill, recruited other parents to help her lobby state legislators, and two years later, got the bill passed." The bill was scheduled to go into effect as "Ryan's Law" in July. According to CNN, "Ryan's Law mandates that insurance companies provide up to $50,000 a year for behavioral therapy up to the age of 16. It also prohibits insurers from refusing other medical care to children because of their autism. It doesn't, however, apply to people or companies who are self-insured, such as the Unumbs."

Similar laws have already been passed in Texas and Indiana, and campaigns to do the same in other states have the support of the advocacy group Autism Speaks. Congratulations to Lorri for her leadership in getting the South Carolina legislature to act. This kind of advocacy makes a difference.


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Thanks for the very kind post, Coleen. I just happened to stumble across this and was so flattered to be recognized by my legal writing colleagues.

I have to say that I was inspired to tackle this challenge by my legal writing background. When I saw how badly a new law was needed and realized that no one else was going to do it, I thought "Well, I don't know how to write legislation, but I'm a lawyer, a law professor, and a legal writing director. If I can't figure it out, then something's wrong!"

I admit to being a little hesitant at first, but then I remembered what we often tell our students: There are no special formulas or magic words. Just sit down and write what you want the bill [pleading, memo] to say, in plain English.

Luckily, it worked. :-)

Thanks again for the kind post, and I hope to see you all again soon.


Posted by: Lorri Unumb | Aug 22, 2008 11:23:19 AM

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