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Autism Speaks Joins Georgia Families in Praising Senate for Unanimously Approving Study Committee of Insurance Issue

March 12, 2009

ATLANTA, GA (March 12, 2009) -- Autism Speaks, the nation'’s largest autism advocacy organization, today joined with families in Georgia to applaud State Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-19) in obtaining a commitment from the Senate to establish a committee to study Ava’'s Law, Senate Bill 161.
This committee will be charged with examining the autism insurance reform issue and developing ways the state legislature can stop discrimination by insurance companies of Georgia’s children with autism.  Senator Williams was inspired to get involved in the issue of autism insurance reform by his four-year-old niece Ava, who has autism. The Senator worked tirelessly as a cosponsor of Ava’'s Law, and helped shepherd the bill through several committees.
On floor of the Senate this afternoon, Senator Williams delivered a rousing speech, suggesting that rather than attach meaningless amendments, that would serve to cripple SB 161, that the Senate table the issue for further review and commit to passing a stronger version of the bill in the 2010 Session.  The Senate erupted in a standing ovation of support. 
“While passing Ava’s Law to provide families with immediate relief and children with effective coverage this year would have been preferable, we are encouraged that the Georgia Legislature has committed to take this issue seriously and conduct a further review to solve a very real problem that families all over this nation are forced to deal with on a daily basis with regard to the medical care and treatment of their children with autism,” stated Elizabeth Emken, VP of Government Relations for Autism Speaks.  “We greatly appreciate the leadership demonstrated by Senator Williams, as well as Senator Johnny Grant, the author of Ava’s Law.”
The intent of Ava’s Law is to require private health insurance companies to provide coverage for medically necessary, evidence-based treatments and therapies for children with autism as prescribed by their treating physician, including coverage for applied behavioral analysis therapy. To date, eight states – Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas -- have enacted autism insurance legislative reform that requires insurers to cover ABA therapies, which typically cost upward of $50,000 a year – a cost well beyond the means of most families.
“I would like to thank advocates statewide for taking the time to work so diligently on Ava’s Law. I especially thank advocates for making calls over the last few days to Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, who listened to our pleas and released the bill out of the Rules Committee, sending it to the Senate floor for a vote,” said Bill Jones, Georgia Chapter Advocacy Co-Chair for Autism Speaks.  “Autism advocates in Georgia succeeded in bringing the issue of autism insurance reform to the forefront and to the attention of members of the Georgia State Assembly.  Rest assured that we will be back next session with even more voices to get Ava’s Law passed!”
Autism Speaks thanks the primary co-sponsors of SB 161 for championing the bill at every turn which include: Senator Johnny Grant (25th District – Milledgeville), Senator Tommie Williams (19th District – Lyons), Senator Eric Johnson (1st District – Savannah), Senator Don Thomas (5h District – Dalton), Senator Bill Cowsert (46th District – Athens) and Senator Dan Weber (40th District – Dunwoody).