ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed the state employee health plan cover treatment of autism, a move applauded by advocates who say early intervention can improve behavior and quality of life.
In his budget this week, Deal would set aside $2.4 million for the coverage. Dozens of other states have passed legislation compelling insurers to provide for the treatments, which can be costly but effective. Research has shown early intervention treatments can prevent or greatly minimize some of the associated disabilities of autism.
Georgia is one of only 16 states that don’t require the coverage, according to state Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Evans), who is the lead sponsor of “Ava’s Law” that would compel insurers in the state to pay for the treatments. The bill is named after Anna Bullard’s daughter, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and who was denied coverage under the state employee health plan in 2006.
“That was almost more of a devastating blow than the diagnosis,” said Bullard, of Lyons. “The diagnosis was something I could see, we could get treatment for, we could help her. But with insurance not covering it, I wasn’t sure what we would do.”