Letter: Morgan needs to step forward on autism bill
We have tried, really, really tried, to win Del. Harvey Morgan’s support for the autism insurance bill in the General Assembly. At certain times in the past two years he has actually backed the bill, which requires insurance companies to cover specific treatments for autism. However, when his vote is needed at crunch time, he has fallen silent, and the bill has died in his subcommittee twice.
Morgan sits on the House of Delegates’ Labor and Commerce subcommittee #1, which hears insurance matters. Last session, Republican Del. John O’Bannon patroned the autism insurance bill, and Morgan actually joined three other delegates in voting to forward the bill on Feb. 2. Four delegates were opposed, and Del. Bill Janis (Henrico) actually abstained, so O’Bannon’s version of the bill was dead. (You need a majority, so a 4-4-1 result is a defeat in committee.)
I was pleased with Morgan’s vote. Advocates like me had lobbied him with a boatful of evidence that HB 303 was good for the kids, good for families, good for schools and posed virtually no impact on the insurance premiums we all pay. There was also a second chance in the Senate.
Three weeks later, on Feb. 23, Morgan’s committee received the Senate version, SB 464, which had passed 27-13 in the other chamber. The language was identical to HB 303, except this time, the bill was halfway to becoming a law. After predictable debate, the House committee chairman called for a vote, a motion was made, but a second was not to be heard. Morgan held his tongue, and there the bill died again—without an up-or-down vote.
What happened to Harvey Morgan and the three other supporters of Feb. 2? What changed their minds? Morgan shrugged and left the room without comment. It was a sad day for due process, and representative democracy. Big insurance left the room a winner.
Here’s the situation: Access to treatment for children with autism depends on insurance. No charity and no government program can replace what a family’s health plan provides. As autism advocates, we want coverage for our kids, and we gladly pay the premiums.
Early intervention changes these autistic lives forever. Failure to treat is a tragedy. Your delegate in the General Assembly receives major financial support from health insurance companies that don’t want to cover autism, although the General Assembly’s own research group says they should.
If Del. Harvey Morgan is really a supporter of the legislation, he should stick to that position. When there’s a motion to vote, he should second it. When the debate is on, he should voice his views.
The bill requires coverage for children ages 2 through 6. Twenty-two other states have passed this law. Harvey Morgan, from quiet, peaceful Gloucester, has a key vote on this issue. Gloucester, it’s up to you tell him what to do, for your own community, and for the state’s kids as a whole. Tell Morgan to support the autism bill in January, and see it through to the Governor’s desk.
John W. Maloney
Virginia Autism Project