Autism-Coverage Bill Returned to Governor

Posted on Apr 13 2011 in Legislative by Yvonne Bunn

Legislators held a one-day “reconvened session” early in April to vote on the governor’s vetoes and amendments to legislation they had passed during the 2011 session. Among the amended bills were HB 2467 (Greason, R-Loudoun) and SB 1062 (Howell, D-Fairfax) that required health insurers to pay up to $35,000 per year for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder for children ages two to six.

The new law would apply to businesses with more than 50 employees and to all state government employees. It does not require individual or small-group insurance policies to cover treatment for autistic children.

Parent advocates, including some parents who homeschool their autistic children, have fought for more than 11 years to pass legislation that would require large-group insurance companies to provide coverage for early-intervention treatment for autistic children.

Both the Senate and House approved the governor’s amendments that would require licensure of therapists, prior authorization from insurance companies, and independent reviews of the child’s treatment plan. They rejected the governor’s amendment that would invalidate the law if a court strikes down the $35,000 cap on benefits.

The $35,000 cap satisfied business and insurance lobbies that strongly opposed the bill. The parents of autistic children complained the cap could interrupt much needed treatment during the early formative years.

The bill now goes back to Governor McDonnell, who could veto the measure. According to the governor’s staff, however, we can expect that he will allow the bill to become law.

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