Proposed bill could lift age cap for autism health coverage

RICHMOND, Va. – Families whose children have autism could soon breathe a sigh of relief. 

On Tuesday, the House of Delegates Committee on Commerce and Labor unanimously voted in favor of a bill that would lift the age cap on autism health coverage. 

Currently, insurance companies are only required to cover costs up to age 10. 

Meanwhile, a 2013 VCU study found the average age of diagnosis is between ages 6 and 7, meaning many children only receive three or four years of necessary treatment. 

Clinical director at BRACC, Samantha McFarland says there's a continued need for people to access therapies.

"It's a lifelong diagnosis. And although the services they need may lessen with age, autism doesn't stop," said McFarland. 

Lavada Guthrie and other parents with the Virginia Autism Project have been pushing lawmakers for this type of legislation. Her 13-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was 2 1/2 years-old. 

Guthrie and her husband found themselves paying out of pocket for their daughter's healthcare. 

"I think it's heartbreaking in this day and time, parents can't get access to services for their children that are medically necessary, they are recommended by pediatricians. That should be accessible if they have health insurance," said Guthrie. 

According to a statement from Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), this legislation could impact 10,000 Virginians on the autism spectrum. 

“No other prevalent health condition, including asthma, diabetes and cancer, has coverage limits imposed based on the age of the patient, and I believe age limits do not belong on coverage for autism," said Delegate Bob Thomas (R-Stafford), the patron of the bill.

The bill will now move on to the House Committee on Appropriations. 

About the Authors:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a content producer in July 2018.

Irisha joined the WSLS news team in January 2017 after spending four years as a reporter in Georgia.