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Madison mother pushes for HB284, ‘autism bill’

MADISON – One Madison mother, like many other parents across Alabama, hopes the Alabama State Legislature will pass House Bill 284 or HB284.

The bill would “require health benefit plans to cover the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder … and require the Department of Insurance to file an annual report with the Legislature on the costs of providing treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder.” (alissearch.legislature.state.al.us)

As of May 9, the Alabama House of Representatives has passed the bill, which now is pending committee action in the Alabama Senate.

“HB284 will insure these children and adults with autism will be given a chance to live a more productive and independent life,” Summer Stewart of Madison said. “The top prescribed and recommended therapy for autism spectrum disorder is Applied Behavior Analysis,” using the premise that an individual will more likely repeat a behavior when some sort of reward is given.

However, health insurance does not cover this treatment. “Alabama is one of five states without autism insurance coverage. Claims data from 45 states show the increase to premiums would only be 32 cents to $1 per member per month,” Stewart said.

“Our son Eli receives 10 hours a week. We play roughly $1,200 to $1,500 monthly. For us, that’s two additional mortgage payments,” Stewart said.

At three years old, Eli was diagnosed with autism. He was nonverbal, lacked socialization skills, had meltdowns, threw things and banged his head on the floor and walls. He barely made eye contact

However with therapy, Eli’s transformation has included speaking at will, eye contact and interaction with family. “Eli is in mainstream kindergarten and doing amazing well. This is an example of how important ABA therapy is for these children’s futures,” Stewart said.

HB284 would provide insurance coverage for these children and adults living with autism. Therapies could cost up to $60,000 annually, depending on severity and hours of treatment.

“Time is running out,” she said.

To contact representatives or senators, visit legislature.state.al.us/aliswww/default.aspx. For other information, visit Facebook/AutismSocietyAL or Facebook/AutismSpeaksAlabama.

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