Breakthrough In Georgia As New Bill Heads To Senate Floor

ATLANTA (February 20, 2014) -- The Georgia Senate Insurance Committee yesterday unanimously approved a new autism insurance reform bill that had been introduced just hours earlier. During the hearing, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle [below], making his first-ever appearance at a committee meeting, offered support for the state's autism community.

Sponsored by Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Tim Golden, the new bill (SB.397) now moves to the Senate floor where a vote could come as early as Tuesday. The bill differs in a number of respects from Ava's Law (SB.191), requiring:

  • Assessments, evaluations or tests by a licensed physician or licensed psychologist to diagnose whether an individual has an autism spectrum disorder
  • Applied Behavior Analysis up to $35,000 per year provided or supervised by a BCBA
  • Counseling services provided by a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical professional counselor or clinical social worker
  • Therapy services provided by a licensed or certified speech therapist, occupational therapist or physical therapist
  • Coverage through age six

"Autism Speaks commends Lt. Gov. Cagle, Senator Golden and Senator Renee Unterman for persevering on this issue to find a workable bill," said Judith Ursitti, Autism Speaks' director fo state government affairs. "This is a bittersweet moment as the new bill would provide less coverage than Ava's Law, but this is an important first step as we continue to seek the best coverage for the most families."

Sen. John Albers, the sponsor of Ava's Law, urged advocates to support the new bill. Neither the Albers bill nor its House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Ben Harbin, have received committee hearings with time starting to run short in the current Georgia legislative session.

On Monday, the House approved Gov. Nathan Deal's proposed new state budget which would extend autism insurance coverage for state employees and teachers.