GA lawmakers considering bill to expand insurance coverage for Autism

GA lawmakers considering bill to expand insurance coverage for Autism
Updated: Feb. 21, 2017 at 3:35 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - In Georgia right now, if you or someone you know is affected by Autism, you can only get help from insurance companies until the age of six.

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would expand insurance coverage for people by raising the required coverage age to 21.

Here's the challenge families affected by Autism face, it is recommended that a person with Autism get 30 hours of therapy a week, and that will end up costing at least $30,000 a year to get a child the attention they need. This new piece of legislation would help cover those costs.

Experts at the Matthew Reardon Center in Savannah say the earlier a person can start therapy and the longer they can afford to do it, the better off and more independent they will be as adults.

Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, ABA, asses a child, coming up with an individual education plan and then helping a child self-manage autistic behaviors.

"We get calls from parents of three-year old's who don't have the financials means to pay for therapy," said Patti Victor, Matthew Reardon Center President.

The current law only requires that insurance providers cover autism treatment services until the age of six. That coverage cap is the lowest in the country, which means that families that send their children to the Matthew Reardon Center in Savannah for specialized therapy, can't afford the help that their child needs.

Sixty percent of the families that have children at the Matthew Reardon Center live at or below the federal poverty level, making this therapy a necessity they simple can't afford. Senate Bill 118 will expand the coverage gap, by 13 years in the hope that it would make treatment more feasible to more people.

Experts say the earlier children can receive specialized treatment and the longer they can afford to have it, the better off they will be.

"There is no time in life worse than middle school, that is a critical time for our kids and for them to be able to get the therapeutic assistance they need to get them started through that stage of life would be huge," said Victor.

If the bill passes it would mean families can get assistance paying for assessments, evaluation, and treatment and would not be limited in their number of therapy visits.

There is some resistance here from insurance companies who may be hesitant to pay it forward.

Experts at the Matthew Reardon Center say it's a matter of "pay now or pay later."

"We can spend the money now and really help people overcome the challenges that Autism presents so they have productive lives for the rest of their lives, or we can put them on social security insurance at the age of 18 and pay for them for the next 60 years," said Victor.

Under the new senate bill, insurance companies would be responsible for covering therapy, not prescription drugs.

However, there is a separate bill going through the house right now that if passed would allow the use of medical marijuana for people with Autism, that House bill is still in committee hearings.

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