Virginia Families Rally at Capitol to Call for an End to Healthcare Discrimination Against Children With Autism

House Bill 1588 Requires Insurance Companies to Provide Coverage of Medically Necessary, Evidence-Based Autism Services

RICHMOND, VA (January 15, 2009) -- This morning Autism Speaks joined parents of children with autism and other advocates at a rally in support of House Bill 1588, which was introduced yesterday at the start of the General Assembly’s 2009 session. The bill would end insurers’ discriminatory policies that deny coverage of key treatments for children with autism. The rally included speeches by the bill’s patrons, other supportive Delegates, as well as members of the grassroots community. Judith Ursitti, Regional Director of State Advocacy Relations, spoke on behalf of Autism Speaks.
Sponsored by Delegate Robert Marshall (R-13) and Delegate David Poisson (D-32), HB 1588 seeks to require private health insurance companies to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder for individuals under the age of 21. Coverage would be subject to an inflation adjusted maximum benefit of $36,000 annually. The bill, which applies only to fully-funded health plans governed by state, includes diagnosis and coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, the most widely accepted, evidence-based autism therapy. Eight states have already passed similar autism insurance reform legislation.  In November, every elected official on the governor’s Mandated Benefits Commission voted to advance the bill to this year’s General Assembly.  
Autism affects more than 7,000 students in Virginia. This number grew by 400% between 1998 and 2006. Families affected by autism are often forced to pay out-of-pocket for medically necessary autism therapies, which can easily cost over $50,000 per year. Many families in Virginia and across the country are literally going broke trying to provide their children with the treatments they need and deserve. 
“The solution for helping these families must come through legislative action,” said Elizabeth Emken, Vice President of Government Relations for Autism Speaks. “We thank Delegates Marshall and Poisson for introducing HB 1588 and call on the Virginia General Assembly to pass this bill and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.”
“Introducing this bill and doing something that will help the thousands of Virginia families whose children are affected by autism is the greatest reward a legislator can know,” said Delegate Robert Marshall.  “This is why I am here.”   
"Admittedly, in the near term, mandating this coverage could add slightly to the cost of health insurance in Virginia. But whatever the cost, and no one can say for certain what it will be, it pales by comparison with what it will be if we fail to invest now in early intervention services. Autistic children who receive insufficient treatment can sometimes end up being institutionalized at taxpayer expense, at costs in the millions for each patient,” said Delegate David E. Poisson.
 
Read and print press release from the Rally in Richmond