Advocates worried about autism bill stalled in Alabama Senate as legislative session draws to a close

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — There are just six days left in this legislative session, and that means time is running out for some big bills to be passed.

One of those bills is HB 284, which would mandate that insurance companies cover an effective but expensive treatment for children with autism. The treatment is called applied behavioral analysis therapy, and all but five states require that insurance policies will provide coverage.

“A treatment that we know is effective, that we know is going to help them become more independent, to learn more skills, and to really just make progress,” said Paul Agostini, an ABA Services Director. “Whether it’s learning how to do things or learning how to solve problem behavior.”

The bill passed the House unanimously, but it’s been stalled in the Senate, where no official action has been taken since late April.

“I’m very adamant that it get on the calendar, and not just on any calendar, but one that’s in a good position to get a vote,” said Cam Ward, a Republican from Alabaster. “So let’s see if it happens. If not, there’s other procedural ways that we may have to fight to get it on there. I do feel optimistic that progress is being made to getting it higher up on the calendar.”

Advocates for the bill have filled hearings in favor of it, with emotional testimony on the powerful impact ABA therapy has had for their children. However, other parents simply cannot afford the treatment, at least not without insurance.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he is hopeful action will be taken this week.

“Will it please everybody? It rarely can do that, but I think we have something that may work,” Marsh said.

The bill will be in committee on Wednesday, and if it passes, it will be before the full Senate for a vote.


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