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Friday, February 11, 2011

Mandate: A Move in WV, a Question Mark in VA

The Charleston Gazette reports:

West Virginia children with autism would have a much easier time getting treatment under legislation passed Thursday by the House of Delegates

The bill (HB2693) would make private insurance companies, the state's Public Employees Insurance Agency, and the Children's Health Insurance Program pay for a critical treatment for autism called applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy.

House members passed the proposal 96-1, sending it to the Senate.


For some lawmakers, the issue is also personal.

I've been giving speeches on this bill for four years," said Delegate Mark Hunt, a Kanawha County Democrat whose 10-year-old son has autism.

Delegate Ralph Rodighiero's son is 18 and was diagnosed with autism at age 5.

After the diagnosis, Rodighiero's wife quit her job as a nurse. She received training at Marshall University and then spent all her time working with their son.

"It was a financial burden, but it was what had to be done to get my child where he is today," said Rodighiero, a Logan County Democrat whose son now attends community college and works in a local movie theater.

Freshman Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, has an 8-year-old son with autism. Living in Elkins, the closest provider of ABA therapy is a 90-minute drive away, she said.

In Virginia, WSLS reports:

Gov. Bob McDonnell was noncommittal Thursday about whether he would sign a bill that mandates insurance coverage for childhood autism, but he gave strong indication that he might reject a budget amendment that spends state money on public broadcasting.

"I'm very sympathetic to the fact that one out of 151 kids in Virginia are diagnosed as autistic and that the expense and some of the heartache for families in managing that situation is difficult," McDonnell said during a briefing with the Capitol press corps.

"I'm also very concerned about mandates that drive up the cost of health care. So, I haven't made any decision on that yet," the governor added, promising his staff will do a thorough analysis of that bill and any others that reach his desk.