House Denies Insurance Coverage for Treatment of Autistic Children

~ Bill would have required coverage for early intervention treatment that improves outcomes, saves state money ~

 

RICHMOND—The House of Delegates today defeated a bill that would have required insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism. Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) sponsored SB464 which would have expanded the availability of early intervention treatments that can lead to improved outcomes for children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The bill was defeated this afternoon on party lines by a voice vote in a sub-committee of the House Commerce and Labor committee.

            “This bill was a small step, but an important step in providing desperately needed services,” said Sen. Howell. “This was a very limited bill crafted specifically to minimize impact on insurance premiums. I am very disappointed that so many children and families are going to have to wait another year for the treatment they need and deserve.”

SB464 passed the Senate of Virginia with bipartisan support despite opposition from business and insurance lobbies. Many of those same special interest groups testified in opposition to the bill at today’s hearing. Senator Howell’s bill would have required insurance companies in Virginia to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autistic children between two and six years of age when treatment has been shown to be most effective.

            “This bill would have provided therapies to help these children have a successful life, in addition to reducing long-term costs to the state,” said Senator Howell. “I simply cannot understand why the House of Delegates would choose special interests over the best interests of children.”

According to a June 2009 report by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), nearly 50% of autistic children who receive intensive developmental therapy can function normally and successfully in the classroom with an additional 40% of diagnosed children experiencing an improvement in function. The report also noted that “providing intensive treatment to young children can significantly reduce public costs by decreasing the need for special education and other forms of public assistance.”

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