120-0: Mississippi Sends A Message on Insurance Reform

JACKSON, MS  (February 11, 2014) -- The Mississippi House of Representatives approved an autism insurance reform bill HB.542, sending it to the Senate by unanimous 120-0 vote. 

"I feel we have done a good job educating the 120 members of the House," said Quess Hood [left] of Ripley, who has helped lead the grassroots campaign for the bill. "Now we want the opportunity to do that with the Senate. It's going to be hard to ignore such a strong message when we passed it unanimously.

"The resistance has been legislators not being educated in what people go through with a child with autism," he said.

The bill would require coverage of the screening, diagnosis and treatment, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), of autism for state employees and teachers. The legislation would take effect July 1 if enacted. The Mississippi State and School Employees Health Insurance Plan covers 31,000 enrollees.

"Autism Speaks thanks our bill sponsor, Rep. Steve Massengill, of Hickory Flat, and Rep. Charles Busby of Pascagoula, who led the vote on the House floor," said Shelley Hendrix, Autism Speaks' director of grassroots advocacy. "We look forward to quick Senate consideration of our bill."

The Senate version of the bill, SB.2679, is sponsored Sen. Rita Potts Park of Corinth.  

In addition to ABA treatment, the bill would require coverage for autism-related psychiatric, psychological, pharmaceutical and therapeutic care, such as speech, occupational and physical therapy. The bill was amended in committee to assure that any pharmaceuticals used in treatment are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The bills set no dollar caps or limits on visits.

Mississippi is one of four southern states considering autism insurance reform legislation this year. In Georgia, the state's autism insurance reform bill, Ava's Law, awaits a hearing in Senate committee. In Tennessee, legislative action is expected to kick off shortly, while the North Carolina Senate is expected this spring to take up an autism insurance reform bill that passed the House 105-7 last year.