By Michael Sluss
The state Senate advanced legislation requiring some employee insurance plans to provide limited coverage for autism treatment after supporters defeated efforts to weaken the bill.
The procedural voice vote in the Senate sets up a final vote on passage today, the deadline for each house of the General Assembly to complete work on its own bills. The House of Delegates passed an autism insurance bill last week after defeating more expansive proposals in recent years.
Like the House bill, SB1062 would mandate coverage of applied behavior analysis for autistic children between the ages of 2 and 6, with a maximum annual benefit of $35,000. The requirement would not apply to self-insured businesses or to businesses with 50 or fewer workers, but it would apply to the state government.
Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax County, the bill's sponsor, urged the Senate to act after the House passed its own legislation.
Howell said the bill "is not everything we want and the children deserve." But it will provide important services for children, she said.
Business and insurance lobbyists have opposed the bill and some conservative activists have chided Republican lawmakers who voted for the legislation.
The Senate defeated an amendment proposed by Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, that would relax the mandate so that employers would only be required to offer plans with autism coverage.
It also rejected an amendment that would remove a provision to cover applied behavior analysis for autistic children.