The 2011 Virginia General Assembly started last week and it is a sprint, not a marathon. The GA is in session for less than 30 days on odd numbered years. That means things move at a frantic pace, and folks on the spectrum need you to make some calls.

I also want to introduce my readers to the Virginia Autism Project. VAP is a group of good, hardworking people who have spent the last 3 years trying to get autism insurance reform in Virginia. They’ve worked hard and Virginia is on the verge of making the change. Their site has a ton of resources from talking points to how to meet with your legislator. However, VAP needs your help with these bills.

There is a ton of support for the bills. The senate bills are SB1061 and SB1062 and the house bills are HB2467 and HB2512. The bills cover early intervention services from ages 2-6 to a maximum of $35,000. One bill is state employees and the other bill is for everyone else.

Why two bills, and why not include state employees? I asked that question myself when I read the bills. The reason is that any change to the state employee benefits will cost money, and several members of the GA were resistant to anything that might affect the budget. To that end, we gave them two options. One bill that has no budget impact and helps all Virginia citizens who have autism and are not state employees or their children and a second bill that has budget repercussions and covers state employees and their families.

VAP is getting some help from Autism Speaks. AS had a ton of folks there for our kickoff rally on January 13th and they really had a ton of good information. All in all we had about 50 folks there on the 13th and we visited a ton of legislators. The senate bills were sponsored by Senator Janet Howell and co-patroned by Senators Creigh Deeds, David Marsden and Jill Vogel in addition to Delegates David Bulova, Eileen Filler-Corn, Mark Keam, Bob Marshall, Kenneth Plum, Tom Rust and Roslyn Tyler . The house bills are sponsored by Tim Hugo and co-patroned by Tom Rust and Speaker William J. Howell. If your senators and delegates are not on that list, please contact them and let them know you want them to vote for these bills. If your senators and delegates are on that list then thank them for their support. Right now they are in committee. If your senator or delegate is listed below, please contact them and let them know to vote for this bill and get it onto the floor.

The members of the Commerce and Labor Committee are:

Terry G. Kilgore Chair (804) 698-1001 DelTKilgore@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Lee Ware, Jr. (804) 698-1065 DelLWare@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Kathy Byron, (804) 698-1022 DelKByron@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate John Cosgrove, (804) 698-1078 DelJCosgrove@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Bill Janis, (804) 698-1056 DelBJanis@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Johnny Joannou, (804) 698-1079 No email fax 757.397.6624 *
Delegate Linwood Lewis, (757) 787-1094 DelLLewis@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Don Merricks, (804) 698-1016 DelDMerricks@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Harvey Morgan, (804) 698-1098 DelHMorgan@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Roslyn Tyler, (804) 698-1075 DelRTyler@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Jeion Ward, (804) 698-1092 DelJWard@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Bob Purkey (804) 698-1082 DelBPurkey@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Deloris McQuinn,(804) 698-1070 DelDMcQuinn@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Tim Hugo, (804) 698-1040 DelTHugo@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Tom Rust, (804) 698-1086 DelTRust@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Dan Marshall, III (804) 698-1014 DelDMarshall@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Ben Cline, (804) 698-1024 DelBCline@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Jackson Miller (804) 698-1050 DelJMiller@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Joe Johnson, (804) 698-1004 DelJJohnson@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Ken Alexander, (804) 698-1089 DelKAlexander@House.Virginia.gov
Delegate Jennifer McClellan,(804) 698-1071 DelJMcClellan@House.Virginia.gov

Also, VAP’s sample letter is below. Feel free to copy, paste and fit to your needs.

Dear Delegate _______

I am a parent of a child on the autism spectrum and I am writing to ask for your support of Virginia’s autism insurance bills, HB 2467 and HB 2512

Autism is a neurological disorder which requires intensive medical treatment. The 2011 autism insurance reform bills will require health insurance coverage to be provided for medically necessary autism therapies children between ages two and six.

(Insert something about your family here and how therapy that you have had to pay for out of pocket has helped your child.)

South Carolina was one of the first states to pass this sort of legislation. Experience data shows that the premium impact in 2009 was 20 cents per member per month and 44 cents per member per month in 2010. (South Carolina’s law is capped at age 16.)

Twenty-three states have passed similar legislation .

As a member of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, you will have the opportunity to vote on these bills. They will be before Subcommittee # 1 on Thursday, January 27, 2011. I urge you to please vote YES on the autism insurance reform bills.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

I’ll keep folks updated about this issue throughout the session. A few dates to keep in mind: Crossover Day, when the bills cross from the Senate to the House and vice versa, is February 8th. We need to have all our legislators on board before then and there may be a rally or some other event for an extra push. I’ll let you know as soon as I know. Happy advocating!

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