JACKSON, MS (January 23, 2014) -- The Mississippi House Insurance Committee today unanimously approved autism insurance reform legislation that would require coverage of the screening, diagnosis and treatment, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), of autism for state employees and teachers. The vote came as Autism Speaks gave the legislation its endorsement.
Rep. Steve Massengill of Hickory Flat is sponsoring HB.542 in the House of Representatives; Senator Rita Potts Parks of Corinth, who vice chairs the Senate Insurance Committee, introduced the Senate version, SB.2679. The bill moves next to the House Appropriations Committee.
As introduced, the bills would take effect July 1 if enacted. The Mississippi State and School Employees Health Insurance Plan covers 31,000 enrollees.
Shelley Hendrix, Autism Speaks director of grassroots advocacy, celebrates the House Insurance Committee vote with (l to r) Rep. Jody Steverson, parent advocate Quess Hood, Rep. Charles Busby, and the bill sponsor, Rep. Steve Massengill.
"We commend Representative Massengill and Senator Parks for their leadership on behalf of the thousands of Mississippi families dealing with autism," said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs. "Autism Speaks is proud to join Mississippi's autism community in calling on the legislature to approve this legislation so that Mississippi can join the 34 other states that require coverage for medically necessary treatments for autism."
In addition to ABA treatment, the bill would require coverage for autism-related psychiatric, psychological, pharmaceutical and therapeutic care, such as speech, occupational and physical therapy. The bills set no dollar caps or limits on visits.
"We are thrilled by today's House Insurance Committee vote," said Shelley Hendrix, Autism Speaks director of grassroots development. "Families in Mississippi have watched as kids in Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida and 31 other states have gained autism insurance coverage and they are no longer willing to wait. Today's unanimous vote sends them a strong message."
Mississippi is one of four southern states considering autism insurance reform legislation this year. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal last week included autism coverage for state employees and teachers in his state budget proposal; in addition, legislation providing even broader coverage remains before the Legislature. The North Carolina Senate will take up a bill passed 105-7 by the House last year. In Tennessee, autism advocates and representatives from the insurance industry have been negotiating a bill that is scheduled for a hearing Feb. 4 before the House Insurance and Banking Committee.