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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Autism bill sent to McDonnell
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Bob McDonnell

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer

Legislation that would require health insurance companies to provide coverage for autism for children between the ages of 2 and 6 now goes to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature.

The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have approved final, identical versions of bills that would require health insurance companies to provide coverage for autism for children between the ages of 2 and 6.

The Virginia Autism Project, which has lobbied for the bills, has organized a campaign urging supporters of the legislation to write, call or fax McDonnell and ask him to sign it.

The legislation would require insurers to provide up to $35,000 for autism treatment, including applied behavioral analysis and other therapies, for children between 2 and 6.

The bill would exempt firms with 50 or fewer employees and those which are self-insured. It would also allow companies to opt out of the coverage if it increased the cost of premiums more than 1 percent a year.

The bills had bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House.

Both houses passed the bills with majorities that would be large enough to override a McDonnell veto.

The legislation provides lower benefits than proposals in past years, but advocates for autism coverage were pleased with the legislature's action.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says that 23 states have laws related to insurance coverage for autism.

Businesses and insurance lobbyists have said that the insurance coverage for autism would be expensive and that costs would be difficult to contain.

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