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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Insurance Legislation

In Alabama, The Birmingham News reports on legislative action Tuesday:
Senators voted 32-0 for a substitute bill that directs insurance companies to offer plans that include coverage for autism treatment. Businesses could choose to offer the coverage as part of their insurance options for employees, or parents could pick it up as a rider, said sponsor Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.
Advocates originally were pushing a bill that would have mandated the coverage.
"I think it's a fair compromise. Is that everything we want? No," said sponsor Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. However, he said, "This provides more coverage than the autism community has ever seen."
Rep. Wes Keller, chairman of the House Health and Social Services Committee, said Wednesday that a bill requiring health insurance companies to provide coverage of top-notch treatment for autism spectrum disorders is unlikely to move through his committee this session.
At a hearing Tuesday, the back rows of the room were filled with the usual legislative staffers, but a crowd of activists, parents of kids affected by autism and a handful of children were also in attendance as part of an impassioned plea for the passage of SB74.
"This job is a heartbreaker," Keller said in an interview with The Associated Press. "With all that passion and feeling, it's easy to do something that's not effective, but this is a bad policy."
Some insurance companies voiced opposition of the measure, and Keller sympathizes with their position.
In West Virginia, WVNS-TV reports:
West Virginia University has one of the top doctoral training programs in behavior analysis in the country, yet there are only 28 Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) in our state.
The bills signed into legislation earlier this month not only makes treatment more affordable, it also makes West Virginia a more attractive place for analysts to work.
"Our surrounding states have had legislation that covers insurance for autism for awhile," said WVU Assistant Professor Claire St. Peter, Ph.D. "So when we were graduating students, well they were being drawn to other states."
WVU developed a Masters program in hopes of giving students the skills needed to combat the lack of autism services in rural areas but without insurance coverage, most of those students left the state.
"So we were graduating students who were from West Virginia, who wanted to stay in West Virginia, who couldn't just find a job because there was no coverage and the families couldn't afford it," St. Peter said.
In North Carolina, WSOC-TV reports on a proposed mandate.