Autism Treatment to be Covered by Insurance

Targeted News Service

ST.THOMAS, Virgin Islands, March 6 -- The U.S. Virgin Islands legislature issued the following news release:

The Committee on Health, Hospitals, Human Services and Veteran's Affairs chaired by Sen. Clarence Payne III, approved several bills at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall Thursday, including Bill No. 30-0202 which will require health insurance providers to cover the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Nereida Rivera O'Reilly, passed with a vote of 5 yes, 2 absent.

"The Department of Human Services supports this bill and applauds the bill's sponsor for focusing on the importance of autism as a disabling condition and the need for families to be supported in their efforts to access services," said Christopher Finch, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services of the bill. "It is our hope that the expanded coverage provided through this bill will create the economic environment for additional trained professionals to provide services in the territory."

Dr. Lindsy Wagner, a Pediatric Neuropsychologist that specializes in the diagnosis, assessment and treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, also spoke in support of the measure. Wagner, who sees about 100 autistic patients of all ages between the St. Thomas and St. Croix districts, sees the bill as a welcomed opportunity.

"I believe that this bill will increase the V.I. economy," said Wagner. "Almost every week I get a phone call from attorneys, doctors, business individuals, teachers, nurses etc. that are considering moving to the V.I. and want to know if we have intervention services (specifically ABA) for children with Autism. When I tell them no, they are very disappointed that they cannot move to the V.I.," she said.

Also on the agenda:

* Approved, 4 yes, 3 absent--Bill No. 30-0253, An Act amending title 22, chapter 33 of the Virgin Islands Code as it relates to assignment and health insurance payments directly to the provider of services. (Sponsored by Senator Craig W. Barshinger)

* Held in committee at the discretion of the chair--Bill No. 30-0204-An Act giving Pharmacists the authority to administer vaccines (Sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes)

* Held in committee at the discretion of the chair--Bill No. 30-0102, An Act governing Physical Therapy, to protect public health, safety and welfare of the people of the Virgin Islands, and provide for territorial administrative control, supervision, licensure and regulation of the practice of physical therapy in the Virgin Islands (Sponsored by Sen. Clifford Graham)

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Committee members present included Senators Craig W. Barshinger, Clarence Payne III, Tregenza Roach and Sammuel Sanes. Non committee members Judi Buckley Clifford F. Graham and Nereida Rivera O'Reilly were also present.

Testifiers speak on Bill No. 30-0253

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