Alabama Senate approves autism insurance mandate

autism legislation

The Alabama Senate voted 33 to 1 Tuesday night mandating insurance coverage for autism therapy.

The bill, which has previously stalled in the Senate due to concerns over costs, requires providers to cover an intensive therapy called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.

The bill will now go back to the House where lawmakers must decide whether or not they want to accept the changes the Senate made to it, such as making the mandate only apply to patients up to 18 years of age, applying only to companies with at least 51 employees, and delaying the mandate altogether on public plans until Dec. 31, 2018.

Last month, the House unanimously passed the bill, 100-0.

Despite not wanting any changes, the bill’s sponsor Meridianville-Republican Rep. Jim Patterson has said he’ll ask his colleagues to approve the changes.

Parents of children who have had the therapy told the House Insurance Committee that it has been “life-changing” for their children. The therapy is also expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars each year.

“This whole experience has been a life changing thing for me. I have learn[ed] so many things, and met some wonderful people,” wrote Meridianville resident Summer Bryant Stewart on Rep. Patterson’s Facebook wall Tuesday night after the bill’s Senate passage. “The autism community is the toughest group of people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. The love and support from my family and friends kept me going through this fight. I am so thankful for Jim Patterson and the courageous way he stood up for my family and the rest of the autism community. “

Upon passage, the bill’s Senate sponsor Auburn-Republican Sen. Tom Whatley, took to Facebook to celebrate: