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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Alaska Mandate Bill: A Hearing and a Setback

The Anchorage Daily News reports on an Alaska House hearing on autism mandate legislation:
Two of the witnesses, parents of children with autism, openly wept as they asked the committee to help save families by reducing the financial struggles they faced, even if they couldn't help with their emotional burdens.
One was BreeAnn Davis, a mother testifying by phone who said that if the bill didn't pass this year, it would be like a death sentence.
The other was a legislator more accustomed to being on the other side of the table, Rep. Dan Saddler, an Eagle River Republican who spoke of being forced to split up his family so his son could get autism treatment in a state with better facilities.
Five of the seven members of the Health and Social Services Committee are sponsors of the measure, but when the hearing ended, Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, its chairman, said he would hold the bill and gave no indication of when -- or if -- he would bring it up again.
KTUU-TV offers more (VIDEO HERE):

A bill that would mandate autism insurance in Alaska suffered an unexpected setback Tuesday night, when House Health and Social Services Committee Chair Rep. Wes Keller (R-Wasilla) decided to keep the measure bottled up in committee -- leaving parents of autistic children deeply disappointed.

With just five days left in the regular session, it is now extremely unlikely that Senate Bill 74 -- which would require insurance companies writing policies in Alaska to provide coverage for autism -- will see the light of day this session.

The measure is not dead, but it's on life support.

Backers' mood Tuesday was one of "shock" and "deep disappointment" according to Beth Richardson, the mother of a 6-year-old who has benefited greatly from early detection and treatment of autism. Statistics show that 50 percent of all children diagnosed with the disease can attend a regular first-grade class rather than special education.