ATLANTA, Feb. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Parents, families and children who have autism rallied at the State Capitol today to urge the chairs of the Legislature's Insurance and Labor Committee to allow the committee to vote on Ava's Law for autism insurance reform, said Anna Bullard, the mother of Ava, for whom the proposed law is named.
Ava's Law (SB 191/HB 309), which is sponsored by Sen. John Albers and Rep. Ben Harbin, would require state-regulated health plans to cover medically necessary services for the evaluation, assessment, testing, screening, diagnosing and treatment of autism spectrum disorder. (A fact sheet on Ava's Law is here.) The bill has been in the committee, which is chaired in the Senate by Sen. Tim Golden and the House by Rep. Richard Smith, since 2009, but hasn't moved.
"Members of the Insurance and Labor Committee tell us they want to vote on Ava's Law, but they're not getting the chance," said Bullard. "We're here to urge Sen. Golden and Rep. Smith to let the committee vote. Sen. Golden and Rep. Smith: children are waiting."
Families of children who have autism and people who want children with autism to receive the treatment that can help them reach their full potential met at the Capitol to share their stories with legislators. Many brought pictures of their children to display on posters and created handmade signs reading, "CHILDREN ARE WAITING; LET THE INSURANCE COMMITTEE VOTE ON AVA'S LAW NOW."
Ava Bullard was diagnosed with autism at age two and denied coverage under the state employee health plan. Her mother was told Ava would never able to speak or be in a regular classroom. Ava did not feed herself, gesture, make eye contact or play with her sisters.
Anna searched for scientifically proven treatment and paid out of pocket for Ava to receive intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, resulting in significant improvement. Today, Ava is a fourth-grader in a general education classroom in Lyons, Ga., who no longer requires intensive treatment and loves playing with her sisters.
Georgia is one of only 16 states that do not require insurers to pay for autism therapy.
Families also wrote thank-you notes to Gov. Deal, who has recommended the state employee health plan cover treatment for autism. Claims data from states that have required similar coverage for several years indicates an average premium impact of 32 cents per member, per month – less than the cost of a postage stamp.
"On behalf of the families, interested stakeholders, legislators and health care providers who fought to make this legislation a reality, I plan to fight and make this bill the law in Georgia in 2014," Albers said. "I'm confident that Ava's Law is sound legislation that will go a long way toward providing the care needed for early behavioral and cognitive intervention. It is time for Ava's Law to be heard and voted upon. This is both morally right and fiscally conservative – in other words, a 'no-brainer.'"
Harbin said autism insurance reform makes ethical and economic sense for Georgia.
"With an average cost of 32 cents a month, autism insurance reform isn't a fiscal issue, it's a quality of life issue," Harbin, who sponsors the bill in the House, said. "Early intervention and Applied Behavior Analysis therapy are proven to help children with autism gain social and behavioral skills to reach their full potential and become contributing members of society."
"Thirty-four states and counting have passed autism insurance reform legislation," Judith Ursitti, vice president of governmental affairs for Autism Speaks, said. "Many self-funded companies are following suit. Yet Georgia families continue to struggle for access to meaningful autism coverage. It's time for the legislature to protect its most vulnerable citizens and move forward with passage of Ava's Law."
Lawmakers passed a resolution commending Ava "on her continued efforts toward the passage of Ava's Law in Georgia in order to benefit others with autism and recognize Feb. 4, 2014, as Ava's Law Day at the Capitol."
Ava addressed legislators, saying, "I'm grateful for my treatment. Please pass Ava's Law."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism now affects one in 88 children and one in 54 boys. According to Autism Speaks, it is the fastest-growing developmental disability, affecting 1.5 million Americans.
SOURCE Anna Bullard