Va. Families Continue Fight for Autism Coverage

Legislation requiring health coverage for disease faces critical test in General Assembly

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    Virginia lawmakers are trying again to get force insurance companies to pay for the treatment of autism in children.

    A bill on the matter is going up for review in the commonwealth's General Assembly this week, but the legislation could face a tough fight. A similar bill failed last year.

    While there are millions of autism advocates, the plan facing Virginia in 2010 isn’t cut and dry.

    It would only apply to autistic children under the age of 9-years-old.

    The legislation would apply only to small to moderate-sized employers who currently provide full coverage medical insurance to their employees. Many companies would be exempt including large employers who self-insure.

    Those companies that cover the health of state employees wouldn’t have to pay up until 2015.

    State officials say the commonwealth simply can’t handle the expense due to its $4 billion budget deficit.

    Some parents of autistic children consider the new legislation a lifesaver. The cost of treating the condition is putting such a financial strain on families, that some are moving out of Virginia just to get coverage.

    But lobbyists are fighting the measure saying the high-cost would come at the expense of jobs. They also argue that it would benefit only a small percentage of those who are currently covered by insurance.

    There are currently about 14,000 estimated cases of autism in Virginia.