Senate passes bill mandating autism coverage

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The Georgia Senate unanimously passed legislation Tuesday — SB 397 – that will require health insurers to cover autism in young children.

“It’s a very proud day in Senate history,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle after the tally board flashed the 51-0 vote in favor of passage.

Although not a single senator voted against the SB 397, the bill’s sponsors spent more than 90 minutes delivering emotional speeches that urged their colleagues to support it.

“We need to send a message across the hall that, yes, we have courage,” said Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) as she pleaded for unanimous passage.

Sen. Tim Golden (R-Valdosta), the primary sponsor of SB 397, called autism “an epidemic that’s sweeping this state and that’s sweeping this nation  . . . a public health epidemic.”

The bill, which now moves to the House of Representatives, was introduced less than a week ago but moved through the Senate with lightning speed.  Supporters of SB 397 spent several weeks working on it behind the scenes before actually introducing the legislative draft.

SB 397 won Senate approval in the face of strong opposition from business and insurance industry lobbyists who said the coverage mandate would be too expensive.

“The majority of states already have a funding mechanism in place for autism; therefore, the adoption of this bill is crucial to making Georgia a more attractive destination for both businesses and families,” said Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell).

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: autism , Casey Cagle , insurance coverage , Renee Unterman , Tim Golden