(Richmond, VA- September 30, 2008)
Yesterday, Autism Speaks joined with parents in Richmond, Virginia for a hearing before the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits on the autism insurance reform bill. Members of the autism community from all corners of the Commonwealth filled the hearing room wearing red shirts to show their solidarity in support for this bill.
The job of the Commission is to review changes in required health insurance benefits proposed during the General Assembly session, to conduct hearings on these changes, and to make recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor based on their findings.
Delegate Robert Marshall (13th District), the main sponsor of this bill, was the first to speak at the hearing. He began his comments with the biblical question, Am I my brothers keeper? evoking the sense for the members of the Commission just how crucial their support for this bill is to help the children and families affected by autism now struggling in Virginia.
Next to speak at the hearing was Delegate David E. Poisson (32nd District). Delegate Poisson is a main cosponsor of this bill and spoke about the need for private health insurance coverage for medically necessary, evidence-based treatments for children with autism.
Stuart Spielman, Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel for Autism Speaks, provided comments at the hearing as well, providing Autism Speaks view about the necessity of this bill and testifying to the projected cost to health insurance consumers if this bill is passed.
The Commission had many questions about the medical necessity and effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in the treatment of autism. These questions were largely answered by Dr. Paul Law, MD MPH, Director of Medical Informatics at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and developer of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) Project, and Dr. Rebecca Rosenberg, Clinical Research Specialist for the IAN Project. As part of their presentation, the Doctors presented a video showing a childs behavior before ABA treatment and after ABA treatme
The parents that spoke next at the hearing carried the days most important and personal message. Each told the story of their child or children with autism, how treatments, such as ABA, have helped them, and the burden that the cost of these important treatments has placed on their family finances. Amongst these parent speakers were Pat DiBeri and Lee Talley, both Chapter Advocacy Chairs for Autism Speaks.
The Commission will be holding further hearings on this bill and will be awaiting the report that is currently being put together by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) that is set to be finished in June 2009.
The next step and most crucial step to getting this bill passed in the General Assembly is for all Virginians to contact their Delegate and explain to them the importance of this legislation for their family and loved ones!