Virginia Autism Project and Autism Speaks join Virginia families in applauding Governor Bob McDonnell for signing House Bill 2467 and Senate Bill 1062 into law on May 6, 2011.

This legislation requires state-regulated health plans to provide coverage of autism diagnosis and treatment for children between the ages of two to six. Stakeholders and Virginia legislators have been working to pass autism insurance reform legislation in the Commonwealth for more than a decade.

HB 2467 was sponsored in the House by Delegates Tag Greason (District 32) and Tim Hugo (District 40). SB 1062 was sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Janet Howell (District 32).

“HB 2467 and SB 1062 are the culmination of over 11 years of legislative work, and countless hours of effort put forth by the parents and advocates in support of Autism,” said Delegate Tag Greason. ”This legislation delicately balances the needs of our families with the struggles that employers throughout the Commonwealth are faced with. It is the right thing to do and I am proud to be a small part of the process.”

Senator Janet Howell, who has a grand-nephew diagnosed with autism, stated “Finally, finally, after a decade of effort by advocates, insurance companies will be required to provide applied behavioral analysis treatment for young children with autism. It has been an incredible struggle to achieve this victory. I am so proud of the many families and Autism Speaks for their persistence and dedication in getting help for young children. I am honored to have played a part in the struggle.”

”Thanks to the efforts of Autism Speaks and the many families across our state, we are on the verge of providing many children with a diagnosis of autism with services that they have long needed. With this bill, we begin to lift the darkness that is autism.” said Delegate Tim Hugo.

The passage of Virginia’s legislation is a milestone, as over half of the states have now enacted legislation to address autism insurance discrimination, requiring private health insurance to cover essential autism treatments and services, including applied behavior analysis. In the absence of coverage, families often pay as much as they can out-of-pocket for services that can cost upwards of $50,000 per year. In the process, many risk their homes and the educations of their unaffected children – essentially mortgaging their entire futures.

”Autism Speaks applauds Governor McDonnell for listening to Virginia’s families and signing SB 1062 and HB 2467 into law. This legislation will extend a helping hand to families that have been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for necessary autism therapies,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. ”In addition, we are grateful for the remarkable commitment and leadership of Senator Howell, Senate Majority Leader Saslaw, Delegate Greason, Delegate Hugo, and Speaker Howell on this issue.”

“We are grateful to our patrons in the House and Senate for leading us down the path to passage by the legislature and we thank Governor McDonnell for signing the bill into law” said Virginia Advocacy Chair Teresa Champion.

In addition to Virginia, twenty-seven states – Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin – have enacted autism insurance reform legislation. Several other state legislatures are considering similar legislation during the 2011 session.

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