In a victory for children and young adults with autism and their families, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law this past month removing the age cap on healthcare coverage for autism. Autism is a neurological disorder which impairs social cognition, and which currently has no known cure or treatment. A May report by news site Wavy.com noted that the rate of diagnosis is increasing every year. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism in the United States.
Prior to the signing of last month’s bill, insurance companies were only required to cover the healthcare costs of children with autism from two to ten years old. The move was deemed a victory more than a decade in the making by autism advocates, such as the Virginia Autism Project’s Theresa Champion.
“Families don’t have to declare bankruptcy,” Champion said. “They don’t have to have three mortgages.”
The bill was also celebrated by the parents of children with autism, including Kate Fletcher, whose three sons have all been diagnosed.
“Going into middle school and adolescence, it’s such a comfort to know that we’ll have access to those services,” Fletcher said. “What we’re used to, if it isn’t nailed down in our house, selling it to help pay for boys therapy. So, every year, we reach our out of pocket maximum when it comes to our health insurance plan.”
The struggle many families experience in the wake of an autism diagnosis is one Northam, a pediatric neurologist, appreciates.
“This is just such a monumental day for these families,” the Governor said, according to Wavy.com. “It gives them the hope that they need that tomorrow’s a better day for them.
The change in coverage will go into effect at the start of this coming year.