Arkansas lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday that would alleviate financial hardships for families struggling to pay for expensive treatments for autistic children.
Dayna Miller, a speech pathologist who once contemplated selling her own kidney so she could afford therapy for her autistic son, praised the bill as long-overdue.
"I mainly feel relieved," Miller said. "It's one more hurdle that we've made it over."
The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee approved the legislation by a voice vote after the bill's sponsor, Rep. Uvalde Lindsey, amended the bill to require most health insurance companies to cover autism diagnoses and treatments for people 18 and younger. It now heads to the House for a vote.
One in 93 boys and one in 345 girls in Arkansas are autistic, according to ArkansasAutism.org, a web site run by autism activists.
HB1315 went back to the House Public Health Committee today for amendments and passed easily. The new amendment added a comma and the limited coverage to age 18. (correction: only ABA has the age limit, not other services.) The cost to the state employee and teachers insurance pools are now estimated at $3.4 million a year, down from $5 million, for the new mandate.
Rep. Uvalde Lindsey and Dianna Varady spoke in favor of the bill with no one speaking against it. However, this time the Committee members Rep. Andy Mayberry and Rep. Bryan King asked extensive and direct questions about the bill.
Rep. Mayberry asked about public schools providing ABA treatment as part of federal IDEA requirements. However, Rep. Lindsey pointed out schools have an unfunded mandate for autism treatment and might come to the state legislature for additional funding.
Rep. Mayberry then asked about who can prescribe ABA treatment, to which Rep. Lindsey replied that insurance companies were allowed to have customary utilization and review "to stop charlatans prescribing or having a blank check."