WV House Passes Autism Insurance Bill
Charleston, WV – Children across the state with autism will have a much easier time receiving treatment under new legislation passed by the WV House of Delegates on Thursday. HB2693 will make private insurance companies, the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program pay for a specific therapy known as ABA, applied behavioral analysis. The WV House passed the bill 96-1; Delegate Ron Walters of Kanawha county was the only abstaining vote claiming that the bill is too broad, could create “double billing opportunities” for insurance companies, and “has a number of flaws in it”. ABA therapy helps children learn to communicate, develop relationships and gain other social skills. However, the therapy is far from cheap; it can cost more than $70,000 per year. Even the house bill only proposes to cover up to $30,000 a year for the first three years of treatment and then $2,000 per month until the child turns 18.
23 other states make insurance cover ABA, West Virginia will make 24. Several WV legislators have openly spoken about how personal this bill is to them. Delegate Ralph Rodighiero’s son is 18 and was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. Delegate Mark Hunt said that he has been giving speeches on this bill for 4 years, his 10 year old son also has autism. Delegate Denise Campbell also has an 8 year old son with autism. The CDC, or Center for Disease Control, estimates that 1 in 110 American children have autism and that it is four times more likely in males than females.
The President of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia, the states largest insurance company, claimed that the bill will require too broad of coverage and has concerns whenever a new requirement would add to the cost of insurance for consumers. America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents insurance companies nationwide is also concerned about the costs. “There’s a cumulative impact from hundreds, actually thousands, of mandates,” passed throughout the country, spokeswoman Susan Pisano said.