The battle for total health coverage for all individuals with autism in Virginia has won only small victories in previous years. The age cap for insurance coverage was only 6 years old before 2015, when a bill was passed which expanded the age cap to include children from age 2 through age 10. Nonetheless, the expanded age cap was only a partial victory. The limits of this current state law are stressed when considering the 2013 report from the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Autism Center of Excellence which highlights that the average age of an autism diagnosis in Virginia is between six and seven years of age. Consequently, individuals diagnosed at age 7 would only be able to access three years of covered treatments before their coverage was restricted.
Conversely, a new and substantial piece of legislation has aimed to ameliorate these limitations. On January 22, 2019, the Virginia House of Delegates Committee on Commerce and Labor unanimously voted to pass a bill which entirely eliminates the age cap on autism health coverage. According to House Republicans, this change would boost costs for state insurance plans covering state workers by an estimated $237,000. “The bill would require health insurers, health care subscription plans, and health maintenance organizations to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals or any age.” The bill is a major victory for the 10,000 Virginian individuals with autism who will soon be able to access important treatments and services throughout their lifetimes.
There is no found cure for autism, however, if given proper treatment individuals with autism can make progress in their areas of difficulty. Robert M.”Bob” Thomas Jr, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, was the sponsor of Bill HB2577 to expand health insurance coverage for individuals with autism. Thomas was thankful towards his colleagues in the Commerce and Labor Committee for their attention towards this important piece of legislation. Thomas explained, “No other prevalent health condition including – asthma, diabetes and cancer – has coverage limits imposed based on the age of the patient, and I believe age limits do not belong on coverage for autism.” If the governor of Virginia signs the bill, the age restriction would be eliminated starting January 1, 2020.