CARSON CITY -- In a surprising bipartisan vote, the Assembly decided 39-2 Tuesday to require insurance companies to provide screening and medical treatment for autistic children.
The vote on Assembly Bill 162 came after Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, announced it was a compromise supported by Republicans, Democrats and insurance companies.
Under its provisions, insurances companies would have to provide up to $36,000 in annual coverage for autistic children. Money can be used for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, recognized as an effective treatment for autism.
But the state Public Employees' Benefits Program would not have to provide the coverage to the children of public employees. That would have cost $1.8 billion a year.
Children of families receiving Medicaid also will not receive the benefit. That would cost $30 million over the next two years, the state calculated.
The omission of state workers' children upset Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville.
"In committee, we heard a lot of compelling testimony," he said. "The state should not treat its employees any differently. We should be helping out their children as well."
Ohrenschall said one in 150 children suffer from autism.
"This bill will (spare) their families from financial ruin," he said.
Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication.
The votes against the bill were cast by Assembly members Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, and Don Gustavson, R-Sparks. Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, was absent.
Contact Review-Journal Capital Bureau chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.