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Bill Mandates Autism Insurance Coverage

March 7, 2011

By Kayla Wamsley
Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Health insurance plans provided by the state government and other large employers would have to cover services for young children with autism under a bill approved by the House of Delegates.

On a 74-24 vote Wednesday, the House passed the measure, which had been championed by legislators from Northern Virginia and inspired by families there.

House Bill 2467, proposed by Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Potomac Falls, would require certain health insurance plans to cover the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and treatment of ASD in children age 2-6, up to $35,000 a year.

The legislation would apply to companies with more than 50 employees. It also applies to state government, because it incorporates a related proposal (HB 2512) sponsored by Delegate Timothy Hugo, R-Centreville.

“Hundreds of families will get the care they need to help make a real difference in the treatment of this disorder,” Greason said.

Hugo agreed.

“Since the Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 110 children, and 1 in 70 boys are affected by autism, our two bills will help improve the future of many children diagnosed with autism,” he said.

Over the past decade, advocates for autistic children have made repeated attempts to require such insurance coverage in Virginia. The issue has never gotten this far in the General Assembly.

This year, the bill won support from House Speaker William J. Howell after proponents agreed to limit the coverage and the benefits and to exempt small group insurance policies.

Insurance plans included in the proposed mandate would cover applied behavioral analysis and other therapies for autistic children.

According to the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, the Greason-Hugo legislation would cost the state more than $1 million in additional insurance premiums each year.

Some conservatives, such as the group Americans for Prosperity, have opposed the bill as government interference in the private sector. Many other states already require insurance plans to cover autism services.

HB 2467 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.

The Senate also is considering its own version of the legislation – Senate Bill SB 1062, sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston. It received a unanimous endorsement on Wednesday from the Senate Finance Committee.

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On the Web

To track or comment on the autism insurance bills, visit the Richmond Sunlight website:

www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/hb2467

www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/hb2512

www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/sb1062


How They Voted

Here is how the House of Delegates voted Wednesday, Feb. 2, on HB 2467 (Health insurance; mandated coverage for autism spectrum disorder). The bill passed by a vote of 74 yeas and 24 nays. (But two delegates who voted “yea” later said they had meant to vote “nay.”)

YEAS–Abbott, Albo, Alexander, Anderson, Armstrong, Athey, BaCote, Barlow, Brink, Bulova, Carr, Cleaveland, Comstock, Cosgrove, Cox, M.K., Crockett-Stark, Dance, Ebbin, Edmunds, Englin, Filler-Corn, Garrett, Greason, Herring, Hope, Howell, A.T., Hugo, Ingram, James, Janis, Johnson, Keam, Kilgore, Knight, Kory, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, May, McClellan, McQuinn, Merricks, Miller, P.J., Morefield, Morgan, Morrissey, O’Bannon, Oder, Orrock, Phillips, Plum, Poindexter, Pollard, Purkey, Rust, Scott, J.M., Sherwood, Shuler, Sickles, Spruill, Stolle, Surovell, Tata, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Ware, O., Ware, R.L., Watts, Mr. Speaker–74.

NAYS–Abbitt, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Byron, Carrico, Cline, Cole, Cox, J.A., Gilbert, Habeeb, Iaquinto, Joannou, Jones, Landes, Lewis, Miller, J.H., Nutter, Peace, Pogge, Putney, Robinson, Scott, E.T., Wilt, Wright–24.

ABSTENTIONS–0.

NOT VOTING–Villanueva–1.

Delegate Cleaveland recorded as yea.  Intended to vote nay.

Delegate Morefield recorded as yea.  Intended to vote nay.