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Autism bill carried over

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, February 8, 2017, the Alabama Senate Health Committee voted to carry over a bill that would have provided funding for early intervention in Autism cases.

SB57 is sponsored by State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). Sen. Allen said that the bill would have provided for families with autistic children.

Last year the Governor formed a study group that met for 8 months. Other states have insurance for families with Autism. Early intervention is a key in treating Autism. Sen. Cam Ward has a daughter with autism who received early intervention and she is fine. My great nephew is a non-performing autisitic person. Early intervention did not take place.

Allen said, “The bottomline is that $3 million will be asked from the ETF to start this program.” We need to be helping families with a child with autism.

Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said, “I have some reservations here. What you are trying to do is 100 percent right, but I have concerns. This is a new insurance program paid for by the State. Today it will be $3 million tomorrow it will be $6 million and then it will be $9 million. I am an advocate. My child has autism. I do not want to kill this bill, but I want this carried over.”

Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) said, “It is strange that we are funding this out of the ETF. They will have to fight for the money every year. This should be covered by insurance.”

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Bussman said, “It is not fair that health insurance does not cover autism early intervention treatments. The only reason we do not pass that is covered is because insurance agencies don’t want it. To fix the problem that is what we need. I am in favor of moving forward with a mandate that this is covered by health insurance.”

Sen. Ward said that this bill is a recommendation by the study group headed by Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner, Jim Perdue. What Perdue was trying to do is find something they can pass.

Autism is a developmental disorder some would say health, some would say mental.

Senator Merika Coleman Madison (D-Fairfield) said, “It is autism today. It will be Down’s Syndrome tomorrow. We don’t have enough resources to cover every disability. This opens the door for other disabilities. CHIP is a good program but it is getting difficult to fund it.

Sen. Allen said, “Everyone in this room recognizes that we have a real issue. Research will continue but there has got to be a starting point where we say that we are going to help these children.”

Sen. Ward said, “There needs to be more work done on this bill. I move to carry this over at the call of the chair.”

The motion to carry over 7 to 2. Senators Gerald Dial and Jim McClendon were the two no votes who would have preferred to pass the bill out of committee with a favorable report.

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The Chairman can bring the bill back to the Committee in a future meeting, if he so chooses.

Sen. Jim McClendon is the new Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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