Parents push for insurance coverage for autism

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ATLANTA - Parents and advocates are begging Georgia lawmakers not to give up on a plan that would mandate insurance coverage for treatment of autism.

Advocates for children with autism spent Monday in the state Capitol working to educate lawmakers on proven therapies that help children with the illness.

“People need to know that here at the Capitol, you've lost your voice. It's not being heard,” Anna Bullard testified.

Bullard spoke before a state Senate committee, pleading with lawmakers to pass "Ava’s Law," named after her daughter.

Parents packed into the committee room, with crowds overflowing in the hallways of the Capitol.

It’s the fourth straight year they have tried to get lawmakers to pass the bill. Georgia would join 32 other states with a similar law on the books.

Bullard said studies show almost half of the kids who receive early treatment wind up back on their proper grade level, just like her daughter. Bullard said it took her family and the entire community to pull together to provide the care Ava needs. Out-of-pocket expenses totaled more than $150,000.

“We do know the insurance companies put in a lot of money to legislators, it's public record,” Bullard argued.

“For those hard-working people that are paying the insurance premium, they should have coverage,” said state Sen. Tommie Williams.

Williams is Bullard’s uncle but still couldn’t push the bill through last year as president pro tem of the Senate.

“That is the most tenacious, God-fearing woman I know in the world.  She will not lose this issue if she has to outlive every legislator up here,” Williams added.

This bill was not approved by Crossover Day, meaning it would not be voted on by both houses this session; however, advocates are pleading with lawmakers not to kill it and to attach it to another piece of legislation for a vote.