Thursday, March 15, 2007

Positive Coverage From the Greenville News

Insurers may be required to cover severely autistic kids
Parents applaud Senate committee's move to address treatment costs

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2007 - 2:00 am By Tim Smith
CAPITAL BUREAUtcsmith@greenvillenews.com

COLUMBIA -- The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that would require insurers to cover treatment costs of severely autistic children.

The unanimous vote was greeted by applause from dozens of parents, including some from Greenville, who had come to Columbia to watch the hearing.

"I think it's a positive thing," said Derrick Howle of Greenville, father of an 8-year-old autistic boy. "It does give hope."

The vote came with the provision that it be kept on hold for two weeks once a spot is reserved for it on the Senate calendar.

Senators said they want to give insurance company representatives and autism advocates a chance to work further on the bill.

Similar legislation last year failed. Lawmakers, however, did provide $3 million for some Medicaid coverage and are talking about more this year.

Insurers and business officials last year balked at the idea of state-mandated coverage, arguing that it would increase premiums, cause some small businesses not to offer coverage for workers and offer only limited benefits.

An amendment offered this week by autism advocates would cap treatment benefits at $75,000 a year and limit coverage to those with severe autism, about 330 children statewide.

"Autism is a medical condition," Lorri Unumb, a law professor and mother of an autistic child, told the senators. "Insurance should be doing its part."

Larry Marchant, a lobbyist representing insurance carriers, said carriers had not had time to study the new amendment.

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