Thursday, February 18, 2010

Virginia Senate Passes Autism Coverage

RICHMOND, Va. -- Legislation that would compel insurers to pay for expensive but effective treatments for children with autism won overwhelming passage Tuesday in the state Senate despite opposition from mighty insurance and business lobbies.
On a 27-13 vote, Sen. Janet Howell's bill advances to the House, where a companion measure died on a tie vote in a subcommittee two weeks earlier.
The bill would mandate coverage by certain employee health plans for applied behavior analysis, the treatment that psychiatric and medical officials say is the most effective and promising for children with autism. Insurers say ABA is an educational service, not a medical one that should be covered.
Howell's bill restricts coverage to children from age 2 years through 6, and limits annual insurance outlays for ABA to $35,000. Because of the record $4 billion gap facing the next state budget, it exempts state employees from required coverage until 2015.
"This bill is so limited, and it breaks my heart it's so limited," Howell said. "But it's a small step, a baby step, for children with autism spectrum disorder and their families."

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