By HARRY KEITH WHITE
House Finance Chairman
This Wednesday, February 29th, is legislative “cross-over” day, the last days for bills to be considered in their houses of origin. As such, floor action has picked up and we have been meeting in split sessions to give committees more time to complete their work on legislation.
My fellow members in the West Virginia House of Delegates joined with me in unanimously passing a clarification of the state’s new autism insurance coverage mandate. The bill passed to the Senate last Thursday makes clear that the new law’s limits on benefits apply only to applied behavioral analysis.
House Bill 4260 relates to insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. A law passed in 2011 sought to require public and private insurance policies to provide coverage, with some exceptions.
Insurers have cited language in the final version of the 2011 legislation to argue that the benefit caps apply to all autism-related care. The 2012 bill concludes otherwise. This bill corrects technical errors in the new law that weren’t caught when it was passed last year. Additionally, House Bill 4260 would also alter the cap of $30,000, which under current law applies to all treatments of autism spectrum disorder. The bill would apply that cap only to applied behavior analysis, and includes coverage for treatment evaluation, in addition to the already-required coverage for diagnosis and treatment of autism.
Autism spectrum disorders cover a wide range of disorders including Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. One in every 110 children in the U.S. has autism according to numbers provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institute of Mental Health considers it more common among children than diabetes, spina bifida, or Downs syndrome. Studies have shown how important early detection and treatment can be for future development, and we hope this measure clears up confusion stemming from last year’s measure.
Another bill passed by the House seeks to make West Virginia join 47 other states working to combat human trafficking. A vote this week sent to the state Senate a bill targeting forced labor or sex as well as child prostitution. People who coerce, compel or lure others into such conduct would be guilty of felonies. They would face five-figure fines and prison terms of at least 10 years.
Trafficking itself would also be a felony. So would be the taking of someone’s passport or other identification document for the purposes of human trafficking. This bill revises and clarifies the state’s law against kidnapping. It also calls on the Governor’s crime committee to develop training standards for law enforcement so they can investigate human trafficking.
Finally, the Legislature celebrated Veteran’s Visibility Day honoring our state’s storied military history throughout the years. West Virginia has more service men and women, per capita, who have served with honor and distinction, protecting and defending freedom at home and abroad. As a Vietnam Veteran myself, I take great pride honoring these heroes of America’s past, present and future and we remain committed to taking care of our soldiers when they return from the battlefield.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues or on any other pieces of legislation when they come before the Legislature, feel free to contact me here at my Charleston office. To write me, my address is Delegate Harry Keith White, Building 1, Room 460M, State Capitol, Charleston, WV 25305. To call me please call (304) 340-3230 or call Toll free at 1-877-565-3447 and ask to be transferred. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process