The Alabama House of Representatives voted 103 to 0 early Thursday morning for a an amended version of legislation that would require insurers to provide the therapies for children 18 and younger. The final version was somewhat less than what supporters initially sought, and includes an exemption from the mandate for businesses that employ 50 people or less.
But Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Merdianville, the bill's sponsor, said after the 2:08 a.m. vote Thursday that it was an important first step in allowing families with autistic children access to critical treatment.
"It's hard to be against children who need help," he said. "103 votes, that's pretty strong."
The bill goes to Gov. Kay Ivey.At oanow.com, Cynthia Williford reports that the legislation could help keep behavior analysts in the state:
For years, John Rapp, Auburn University’s applied behavior analysis program director, has seen students who get their masters leave Alabama for better, higher-paying or simply available, jobs. And those jobs are often in the 45 other states where insurance reform bills have passed.
“We like to try to recruit people outside Alabama to come to our program with the hope that they’ll stay, but, without gainful employment, they will gravitate to wherever the jobs are,” Rapp said, the director of one of the highest rated programs in the country. “Suffice it to say that Alabama has not been one of the higher paying regions. That has contributed to it, and again, where there’s a lot of demand, there’s an opportunity to pay better salaries.”
Odessa Luna, a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and doctoral candidate at Auburn, said she has trained and knows several who have found better jobs elsewhere. If the bill were to pass, Luna said it would be a “huge appeal” to BCBAs.