“Ava’s Law”: Insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders

SB-1 Also known as “Ava’s Law”, passed in this session after a 7 year fight.  

Tom’s Vote:  YES

From the Autism Speaks website:

ATLANTA— Chairman Charlie Bethel and Richard Smith announced at a joint press conference at the Georgia State Capitol that a deal has been reached to pass autism insurance reform SB 1, better known as Ava’s Law, which had been held up in the House Insurance Committee. If passed and signed, Georgia could become the 41st state in the country to pass reforms that require coverage for autism related medical services.

“Today’s announcement on autism insurance is a victory for thousands of children with autism living across Georgia who would receive the medical treatment they deserve under Ava’s Law. We are grateful to both the Senate and House for passing this important legislation.  Once signed into law, it will make a difference for so many families struggling to access affordable care for their loved ones,” said Judith Ursitti director of state government affairs at Autism Speaks.

The announcement was made after grassroots activists across the state took to social media and put in thousands of calls, emails and visits, leadership announced a deal had been struck.

“After seven years, I am ecstatic that Georgia children with autism will finally have the coverage they need. Thank you to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Senator Charlie Bethel and Rep. Richard Smith for working to find a path forward in Georgia,” said Anna Bullard, mother of Ava Bullard for whom the law is named.

Both chairmen indicated the law would go into effect later this year after being voted on in the Senate which already passed the non-amended version unanimously earlier this year. The end of the legislative session is on April 2 and coincides with Light It Up Blue, an international awareness campaign that kicks off Autism Awareness Month.”

This was a bill that was introduced originally in 2010, and until this year was stalled in committee for 7 years.  I fully supported this bill (in various iterations) over the years, but it never came out of the House Insurance Committee, thus could not advance for a vote on the House Floor.  I had many parents from my district literally in my office in tears over a multi-year period over the non-movement of this bill.  As the uncle of an autistic child, I was as frustrated that what would seem to be a common-sense bill was constantly bottled up, never coming to the floor for a vote.  I do give Senator Bethel and Representative Richard Smith congratulations on finally getting this passed and Governor Deal for signing it into law.

This is a case, among many, that illustrates the need for patience and effective advocacy, not only by legislators, but the public involvement as well.  The City of Sandy Springs legislation languished for 28 years, City of Dunwoody was a low comparative 3 years, but our Parks and Property transfer bill (giving Dunwoody our parks and other property) took 5 years.  These were all on simple majority votes.  The current Independent School constitutional amendment (Hr-486 & HR-4), which requires a ⅔ majority vs. simple majority, has been held up since 2013 due to the in the inability to reach that ⅔ majority required.  But, as with autism, the city bills, and many others, perseverance, patience and realization that passing legislation is a process and not an event is critical.