Northam signs law removing age cap for autism treatment coverage

Ralph Northam , 73rd Governor of Virginia since January 13, 2018, Photo Date: 11/11/2018 /...
Ralph Northam , 73rd Governor of Virginia since January 13, 2018, Photo Date: 11/11/2018 / Photo: Alexandria Blanche / USMC / (MGN)
Published: Mar. 21, 2019 at 7:40 PM EDT
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Legislation that expands health care insurance coverage to adults with autism has now been signed into law.

Governor Ralph Northam signed the bills Thursday that will ensure all people with autism, no matter their age, have access to the insurance they need.

Under current Virginia law, coverage is only required for people between the ages of 2 and 10, but the new law will remove that age cap, which means nearly 10,000 Virginians living with autism can get access.

"One of my primary motivations for entering public service was finding an avenue to address the frustrations and challenges that I would routinely encounter as a physician trying to help families navigate the insurance landscape," Northam said. "Now, individuals with autism will have access to the coverage they need, no matter their age, [which] will have a profound impact on Virginia families. Both Democrats and Republicans have been working on this issue for years and I'm proud to sign this legislation that exemplifies what we can achieve when we come together to improve the lives of the Virginians we serve."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say autism is the fastest growing developmental disability. The CDC estimates one in 59 children in the United States is impacted by autism.

In 2011, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children between the ages of 2 and 6. The age cap was then increased to 10 by a bill passed by the 2015 General Assembly.

The new law removing the age cap will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.