Parents call for governor to extend autism coverage - CBS46 News

Parents call for governor to extend autism coverage

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Anna Bullard knew something was very wrong. Her daughter, Ava, was 3 years old and could not speak.

"She wouldn't say a word," Bullard said.

Ava Bullard was diagnosed with autism.

"She couldn't feed herself. She didn't eat a lot of food. She didn't play with any toys," Bullard said.

Bullard and her husband did everything they could to get their daughter behavioral, speech and psychological therapy.

"I knew that I had to get this treatment of Ava."

Bullard said, however, her health insurance company would not cover autism treatment.

"It's one of the most unfair situations I've been  involved in," Bullard said.

The cost of all that therapy can add up and drain the average family's savings.

"We started looking at taking out loans, maxing out our credit cards," Bullard said.

Bullard saw a glimmer of hope when State Sen. Renee Unterman sponsored a bill that would have made insurance companies cover autism treatment.

That hope was dashed when lawmakers failed to pass the measure.

"It was very numbing," Bullard said.

Unterman attached her proposal to a bill that would've legalized medical marijuana for kids who suffer from severe epileptic seizures.

When asked if attaching the autism to a medical marijuana measure dooms both proposals, Unterman responded, "we feel the house had the opportunity to bring up the bill."

House lawmakers did not. Both bills failed.

Gov. Nathan Deal recently said he would look into ways the state can make medical marijuana available.

When asked if she would press the governor to do the same for her autism bill, Unterman answered, "I have not talked with the governor, but I'm sure as they're reviewing all legislation they'll not only review what passed, but they'll look at what failed."

Bullard said "we have asked (Gov. Deal) to encourage self-insured companies to add the coverage independently."

CBS 46 asked the governor's office if he would look into expanding that to more Georgians.

A spokesman said: "While the governor doesn't have the power through executive order to enact a coverage mandate – that must be done by the general assembly – he will explore ways where we can increase Georgia families' access to autism treatment."

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