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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Georgia Mandate and Background

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

In Georgia last year, Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) pushed for legislation called “Ava’s Law,” named for his grandniece, who was diagnosed with ASD. The bill, opposed by insurers and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, would require private insurers to cover medically necessary autism treatments and services. But lawmakers shelved it in a study committee.

The bill emerged in the current session. But a version that was approved in the Senate removed the mandate. Instead, it creates a task force by July 31 that would develop a plan for educating health professionals and parents about services, early intervention and funding, as well proposing public policy.

This new version heads to the House in the few remaining days of the session.

The Georgia Chamber said its opposition is based on objection to all mandates that increase costs for business-sponsored employee health benefits.

“It is a very difficult issue and is not made easily on just the economics,” said John Kruecer, the chamber’s senior vice president of public policy.

He said the chamber has met with autism advocacy groups in recent months but was unable to reach a compromise.

Autism Speaks, a national group advocating insurance changes, said its analysis shows the Georgia legislation would add only $21.20 per policyholder or about 0.63 percent.

In 2009, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, an association of insurance carriers, estimated an autism coverage mandate increases the cost of health insurance by about 1 percent. With the number of autism cases growing, the council predicts the cost will move into the 1 percent to 3 percent range.

“If legislators want to help these families, they should create programs specifically targeted to meet their needs and properly fund them from general revenues ... rather than try to force the costs onto health insurance, which will just increase everyone’s premiums,” the council wrote in a position paper.