Autism bill opponents make case against "mandate"

6:55 PM, Jun 4, 2013   |    comments
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Georgia Commission on Mandates hears testimony on autism bill

ATLANTA -- The opposition to the autism bill was finally out in the open during a meeting of the newly created state Commission on Mandates.

"It's nice to see who they are and what you're up against," said Anna Bullard, the Toombs County mother who spent much of the winter lobbying on behalf of a bill that would require insurance coverage in Georgia for autism treatment. "Because the whole time we were at the capitol, we never saw anybody. Or heard anything. But we knew they were there."

MORE | Continuing coverage of the Autism Gap

The bill was named for Bullard's daughter Ava, an eight year old with autism. She has thrived under the type of treatment often denied to those lacking such insurance coverage.

"And they all have compelling stories," said Kyle Jackson, lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses-- which opposes the bill. Like Bullard, Jackson spoke before the mandate commission Tuesday.

"But at some point, we're going to make health insurance so expensive nobody's going to be able to afford it," Jackson told the commission. Lobbyists for the insurance industry also spoke against the bill, arguing the coverage would raise costs to small businesses and the insured.

Backers of the bill say early treatment of autism actually saves tax money -- and heartache for families.

"You can hash numbers out all day. But you're talking about either a kid (who) can function independently or not," said Bullard. "Which makes it a no brainer."

The mandate commission, which consists mostly of non-politicians, will make a recommendation on the autism bill prior to the start of the 2014 legislative session.

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