Northam Signs Legislation Increasing Access to Health Insurance Coverage for Individuals with Autism
03/21/2019 Release from the Office of Governor Ralph Northam:
RICHMOND - Governor Ralph Northam has signed Senate Bill 1693, sponsored by Senator Jill Vogel, and House Bill 2577, sponsored by Delegate Robert “Bob” Thomas, which will ensure all individuals with autism, no matter their age, have access to adequate health insurance. Current law only requires coverage be provided to individuals between ages two and 10. This legislation removes the age cap for autism coverage, expanding access to care for nearly 10,000 Virginians living with autism, including transition-age youth and adults. It will be effective beginning January 1, 2020.
“One of my primary motivations for entering public service was finding an avenue to address the frustrations and challenges that I would routinely encounter as a physician trying to help families navigate the insurance landscape,” said Governor Northam. “Now, individuals with autism will have access to the coverage they need, no matter their age—that will have a profound impact on Virginia families. Both Democrats and Republicans have been working on this issue for years and I’m proud to sign this legislation that exemplifies what we can achieve when we come together to improve the lives of the Virginians we serve.”
Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Autism Spectrum Disorder is complex and lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. Legislation passed in 2011 required coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder for two- to six-year-old children. In 2015, the General Assembly passed legislation raising the age cap to age 10. This legislation removes all age restrictions on services, allowing individuals, who each experience autism in unique ways, to receive the care they need throughout their lives.
“I am so grateful for the legislature’s and governor’s support of this bill. With passage, we finally give people of all ages with autism spectrum disorder access to health insurance coverage,” said Senator Jill Vogel. “As someone who worked on this legislation for more than ten years, I have seen the impact on families whose children were cut off from coverage. We only succeeded this year because of their hard work and unbelievable commitment all of these years.”
“The CDC now estimates that Autism impacts 1 in 59 children in our country, a number that is growing at 15 percent per year,” said Delegate Bob Thomas. “We should continue to do everything we can to learn about the causes, but as a father of eight, I know just how important ensuring our children have access to quality healthcare is. After years of advocacy by the autism community and the families who care for autistic loved ones, I am proud to lift the age cap for coverage to help thousands of Virginians get access to needed healthcare.”