Autism bill pulled in Senate

By Bill Rankin

A state lawmaker emotionally tabled his bill to require insurance companies to cover treatment for autism.

“I really don’t want to do this,” Sen. Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) said, his autistic niece, Ava, looking on only a few yards away.

Senate Bill 161 would require insurers to cover Applied Behavior Analysis treatment of autism for employees of small companies.

Williams, who named the legislation after Ava, said he was withdrawing the legislation this year because there are many senators, including some in the Republican caucus, who are not ready to vote for it.

But Williams said if there is a cure for some children with autism, there should be a requirement for insurance to cover it.

After receiving the behavioral treatment for 18 months, Ava could speak 1,000 words, Williams proudly told his colleagues. Yet many insurance policies only cover the diagnosis of autism, not this treatment, he said.

“The truth is we found something for autistic kids that works,” Williams said. “I don’t want to tell somebody [with an autistic child] to buy insurance and find out it’s worthless.”

Williams asked that a study committee meet this summer on the issue.

“I want your commitment that we study this thing, get it right and pass it out of this chamber next year,” he said.

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