By Olympia Meola
Children with autism could have a key treatment covered by insurance by the end of this year under a measure heading to the House of Delegates.
The bill, sponsored by Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason, R-Loudoun, is intended to address technical issues with the autism insurance mandate legislation passed during last year’s session that have delayed implementation.
Greason’s bill gives the Board of Medicine the power to promulgate the regulations that legislators asked them to last year, and directs them to do it within 280 days. It also creates a work group of industry experts to help the board with the regulations.
The measure carries an emergency clause, which would speed it through the General Assembly to the governor’s desk. Emergency legislation, which takes effect upon the governor’s signature, requires the approval of 80 percent of lawmakers in each chamber.
The House’s Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee approved the measure 21-0 Tuesday.
“The governor has said he’s going to sign it as soon as he gets it on his desk,” Greason said.
Some advocates are disappointed that an effort to cover care between now and when the regulations are completed was unsuccessful.
“I can’t imagine having a four-year-old with autism and finding out I have to wait another year,” said John W. Maloney, an advocate of the insurance mandate. “The treatment window is already narrow.”
Teresa Champion, president of the Virginia Autism Project, said she also would have liked some interim fix but that she’s thankful some legislation is moving forward.
“We just want therapy in the hands of families,” she said.
Legislation passed last year requires health insurers to cover some treatments for autistic children ages 2 to 6, with a cap on annual coverage costs of $35,000. It does not apply to self-insured companies and would exempt businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
It covers state employees and the $1 million reserved to cover increased premiums that the state would pay for state workers is still earmarked.
The law was intended to take effect this month, but the attorney general’s office concluded that the state Board of Medicine did not have the power to create the regulations as asked. Greason’s measure, House Bill 1106, is expected come before the House of Delegates for a final vote Friday.
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