Northam Signs Bill Increasing Access to Healthcare for Individuals with Autism

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by Brandon Jarvis

Starting January 1st, 2020 – a law making healthcare access more difficult for older individuals on the spectrum will no longer be in effect.  Current law only requires coverage be provided to individuals between the ages of two and ten. The legislation signed by the Governor removes the age cap for autism coverage, expanding access to care for nearly 10,000 Virginians living with autism, including transition-age youth and adults.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jill Vogel (R) and Bob Thomas (R) in the General Assembly this session.

“I am so grateful for the legislature’s and Governor’s support of this bill. With passage, we finally give people of all ages with autism spectrum disorder access to health insurance coverage,” said Senator Jill Vogel. “As someone who worked on this legislation for more than ten years, I have seen the impact on families whose children were cut off from coverage. We only succeeded this year because of their hard work and unbelievable commitment all of these years.”

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Autism Spectrum Disorder is complex and lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. Legislation passed in 2011 required coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder for two- to six-year-old children.

Scientific studies have shown that healthcare costs for adults with Autism are more than double the cost of the general population. Mary Ann Liebert  found that healthcare costs from Autism Spectrum Disorder increased by 20 – 70% compared to adults with ADHD. “Adults with ASD had significantly higher rates of utilization across most health care service areas compared with adults with ADHD or GP; however, women with ASD were significantly less likely to have gynecology visits and have screening for cervical cancer.”

“The CDC now estimates that Autism impacts 1 in 59 children in our country, a number that is growing at 15 percent per year,” said Delegate Bob Thomas. “We should continue to do everything we can to learn about the causes, but as a father of eight, I know just how important ensuring our children have access to quality healthcare is. After years of advocacy by the autism community and the families who care for autistic loved ones, I am proud to lift the age cap for coverage to help thousands of Virginians get access to needed healthcare.”   

The Governor’s office says that this legislation removes all age restrictions on services, allowing individuals, who each experience autism in unique ways, to receive the care they need throughout their lives.

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