Wednesday, April 8, 2009

AR autism bill fails to get out of committee

Bill to provide insurance coverage for autism dies in committee

By John Lyon
Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — A bill that would require insurers to provide health coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism failed to get out of a House committee today, the last full day of the legislative session.

Sen. Mary Ann Salmon, D-North Little Rock, the sponsor of Senate Bill 913, tearfully told the House Insurance and Commerce Committee she would refer the bill for interim study because she lacked enough support to win the committee’s endorsement.

The committee previously rejected the bill last week, two days after the Senate passed it 35-0.

Last week and again at a committee meeting Tuesday, representatives of the insurance industry testified in opposition to the bill, which was expected to raise health insurance premiums by an average of $1.48 per month.

Salmon said society pays a higher cost for not providing coverage for autism. The cost to the state to care for one autistic child is $120,000 a year, she said.

“Yesterday we heard the sky is falling. The sky fell on these people when they got a diagnosis of autism,” she said.

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