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Families Wait Patiently for Autism Insurance Coverage

A pair of bills are moving through the General Assembly that could help families whose children have been diagnosed with autism.

Last spring, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signed into law a bill mandating that insurance companies help pay for the treatment of autistic children.

Unfortunately, families are still waiting, according to an article on the Washington Post, after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) determined that the legislation contained imprecise language that legislators needed to correct.

Until any corrections are made, families will continue to pay out of pocket or forgo treatments they can’t afford. As a result, a number of parents have become frustrated with the situation, including Jennifer Lassiter, whose 16-year-old daughter, Katelyn, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.

“As a parent myself, when my daughter was first diagnosed everyone told us that the best outcome for her was to get as much behavioral therapy as possible," Lassiter said. To not be able to afford it is difficult, she said. “You’re talking $10,000 to $30,000 a year depending on how severe your child is and no one has that kind of discretionary income for medical bills.”

Lassiter said her family lived in California when her daughter was originally diagnosed. The state had a much more comprehensive system of providing behavioral therapy and parent training, she said, right from the time of diagnosis.

“Virginia does not have that,” Lassiter said, who was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Council on the autism legislation last summer. Lassiter said she is working closely with Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-Loudoun), an original sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Mark Herring to gain the general support that’s needed to get the bill amended.

“We are 46th in the country for providing intervention so it’s just so crucial that parents have every available resource to try to help.”

Lassiter is also an employee at The Arc of Loudoun at the Paxton Campus in Leesburg. There are 24 students who attend the Aurora School that have been diagnosed with autism as their primary diagnosis, she said.

Although the school systems provide some intervention Lassiter said it’s not intensive enough to make the kind of change that you see with intensive behavioral intervention.

“It’s just really frustrating to have this kind of help available, the assembly passed the legislation, and now for there to be this glitch so that no one can actually deliver the service is just maddening.”

Lassiter said she hopes that things will begin to move forward as soon as possible. Although a pair of bills are moving through the General Assembly coverage is not likely until the end of the year, if approved.

“This is early intervention so every parent that I know is either trying to provide this therapy on their own or trying to find a resource so that they can be trained and do it themselves if they can’t afford it,” Lassiter said. “It’s just a necessity for these kids for the best outcome.”

Ryan C Roth January 24, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Good article. I've been keeping up with this through Autism Speaks. Hopefully a resolution is reached quick. Kudos for Tag Greason for his help.
Leah M. Kosin January 24, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Thanks Ryan. I tried getting in contact with someone from the Virginia Autism Project before the article ran. If I hear from them I'll make sure to provide updates. In the meantime, feel free to keep us updated if you hear anything before we do. Thanks for reading :)

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