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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Virginia Mandate Will Become Law

Virginia may soon require health insurance coverage providers to cover certain treatment for autistic children ages 2 to 6.

The House of Delegates and state Senate approved four amendments McDonnell proposed to the autism bill, but rejected the fifth, and most contentious. It would have sunset the law if a court or federal law were to invalidate the $35,000 benefits cap.

Advocates say they have worked out an agreement with McDonnell that he will not veto the bill. In exchange, leading lawmakers in both chambers agreed to seek a legislative solution to address the cost impact on Virginia if future federal action deems the cap unenforceable.

Tacking the cap provision to the bill pleased business and insurance lobbies that strongly opposed the legislation, but angered parents of autistic children who said it put families in a precarious position because treatment could be yanked at any time.

The law would not apply to self-insured companies and would exempt small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. It would cover state employees.

McDonnell's amendments that survived include creating a licensure requirement for applied behavior analysts through the Board of Medicine; requiring prior authorization of services, including applied behavior analysis; and having an independent assessment of treatment plans.

Advocates of the bill, who have worked for years on finding an agreement, cheered the action.

"This has been an uphill battle for the advocates and the patrons, but the better instincts of the legislature eventually prevailed. Autism has consequences for all of us, and this is a response we can all support," said John W. Maloney, with the Virginia Autism Project.

WTVR in Richmond reports: