Insurance companies would have to cover autism therapy for children 6 years and younger under a mandate passed Tuesday by the Georgia Senate.
Chamber leaders hailed the 51-0 vote for Senate Bill 397, which they said would provide some of the state’s youngest children the help they need to succeed later in life.
Business and insurance groups continue to oppose the effort, however, and warn it would increase health insurance premiums across Georgia.
Hundreds of advocates have spent at least five years pushing for autism insurance coverage, many of them inspired by a now 9-year-old Georgia girl named Ava Bullard. Ava is the great-niece of Sen. Tommie Williams, the chamber’s former president pro tem. She began applied behavioral therapy for autism at age 3 and now functions well.
SB 397, sponsored by Senate Insurance and Labor Chairman Tim Golden, R-Valdosta, does not go as far as many of the advocates would like, but most have celebrated it as a first step. Senate leaders, who fast-tracked the bill after weeks of behind-the-scene negotiations, have acknowledged it is a compromise that seeks to lessen complaints from opponents.In South Dakota, the Rapid City Journal reports:
Insurance providers should cover autism spectrum disorder in South Dakota, the state House of Representatives decided Monday.
House members voted 57-12 to send HB 1257 to the Senate for consideration.
“For seven dollars a year? That’s nothing. That’s peanuts. We blow that out of our gas tank driving around town every day,” Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, said.
The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Scott Munsterman, R-Brookings. He said a Wellmark witness testified the coverage would cost $2 to $7 per person annually.
“These kids are salvageable, and we want to save as many as we can,” said Rep. Scott Ecklund, R-Brandon, a medical doctor.
More than 30 states have autism mandates, according to Rep. Melissa Magstadt, R-Watertown. “We need this for our kids,” she said.
Only 25 to 35 percent of children with autism would be covered, said Rep. Mike Verchio, R-Hill City.