Bill to mandate insurance coverage for autism therapy heads to Kay Ivey’s desk

HB 284
[Photo courtesy of Rep. Jim Patterson]

While most Alabamians were sound asleep, state lawmakers were hard at work trying to get legislation across the finish line early Thursday morning.

HB284 passes
The state House concurred with the Senate changes. By 102-0, HB284 passes. [Photo courtesy of Rep. Jim Patterson]

Making it past its final hurdle, HB284, a bill mandating insurance coverage for autism therapy, was approved by Alabama House of Representatives at 2:07 a.m. when members concurred 102-0 with an amended Senate version.

The final version of the bill includes amendments from its original version 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.

“I am so proud that our State has done the right thing!” the bill’s sponsor Meridianville-Republican Rep.  Jim Patterson said in an early Thursday morning Facebook post.

Patterson is referring to his colleagues decision to support the bill, which faced a tenuous road to final passage.

Last month the House unanimously passed the bill, 100-0, but the legislation found itself in jeopardy when it reached the Senate due to concerns over costs, as it requires providers to cover an intensive therapy called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.

However, following an outpouring of public support, the Senate ultimately approved the measure, 33 to 1, Tuesday with a few amendments to the House bill, which is what triggered the late-night House concurrence vote.

“I voted yes on behalf of my district. I hear you loud and clear,” Huntsville-Republican Paul Sanford posted on Facebook after the vote.

The bill now moves to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey. According Patterson, Ivey will sign the bill during a 10 a.m. Friday ceremony.