Virginia celebrates increased protections for autism services

May 23, 2022

On April 6, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed new legislation into law that slightly amends the definitions of autism and medical necessity in a way that aligns with the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This change ensures that autism is protected by federal mental health parity law and secures coverage for a wider range of medically necessary care for autism. It forces any state-regulated health benefit plans that have been denying autism services, like applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, to now cover that medically necessary care.  

This legislative initiative was led by Autism Speaks and supported by a state coalition, including organizations like the Council for Autism Service Providers (CASP). Autism Speaks and its partners are incredibly grateful to Virginia State Delegate Carrie Coyner and State Senator Jill Vogel for championing the legislation and ensuring its passage. 

This law amends the definition of autism spectrum disorder and medical necessity, as they relate to requirements for health insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism. The bill brings the definition for autism in line with the DSM by defining it as “any pervasive developmental disorder or autism spectrum disorder, as defined in the most recent edition or the most recent edition at the time of diagnosis of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association.” In doing so, it makes autism services subject to mental health parity laws and regulation. 

The Bureau of Insurance has already notified health insurance providers about this change which will formally take effect on July 1, 2022. We will continue to advocate the proper implementation of the legislation and are working with the Virginia Bureau of Insurance to provide guidance to insurance providers on the new policy. 

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