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Key GA Lawmakers Vow 2014 Push for 'Ava's Law'

November 19, 2013

ATLANTA (November 19, 2013) -- The Senate and House sponsors of Ava's Law said they will press forward for passage of the autism insurance reform bill when the Georgia Legislature reconvenes in 2014.

Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) and Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Evans) restated their commitment following Monday's 7-4 vote by the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits against a recommendation that the Legislature consider the bill.

"We will get this passed," Albers [left] told supporters of the bill following the vote. "Today was more motivation to pass Ava's Law."

"Even though today's vote did not go our way, we will continue to push forward," said Harbin [right].

The commission members were appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, and included only four elected lawmakers. It's charge was to conduct a "cost-benefit" review of several bills before the Legislature, including Ava's Law which would require state-regulated health plans in Georgia to cover autism-related treatments, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Georgia is one of just 16 remaining states yet to enact autism insurance reform; Home Depot Co-founder Bernie Marcus earlier this year said Deal assured him he would sign the bill if it was voted out of the Legislature. 

"The bottom line is that we got the negative vote we anticipated," said Judith Ursitti, Autism Speaks director of state government affairs. "Their recommendation is non-binding and simply goes to the Governor in report form."

One positive development that came as a surprise was the Yes vote from Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who announced during the meeting that she wants to work with advocates to craft compromise language to move the bill forward without having to come back to the commission. 

The bill is named after Ava Bullard, whose mother Anna Bullard of Lyons, has helped rally Georgia families behind the legislation.