Updated: Thursday, 15 Jan 2009, 8:31 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 15 Jan 2009, 4:07 PM EST
SUFFOLK,Va - Mark Llobell is four and half years old and still can't speak in full sentences.
Last year a doctor diagnosed him with Autism and recommended immediate and intensive ABA therapy. ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis, something private insurance in Virginia does not cover.
"It's quite expensive," said his grandfather Mark Llobell Sr. "We're fortunate we have been able to go out and throw down a couple mortgages on properties and provide for our grandson, but there are so many families across Virginia that just can't do that."
That's why Llobell Sr. started working to pass House Bill 1588. It mirrors bills already passed in eight states which require insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of Autism up to age 21, with a maximum of $36,000 a year.
Pediatrician John Harrington says it's not that simple, "You can mandate it, but there wouldn't be anybody there to service it." he said. Dr. Harrington said there aren't enough specialized therapists to go around.
Still, as a doctor and father of an autistic child, he said it
should be covered because it works.
"The child is not institutionalized, not receiving money from the state for the rest of their life. Now you have a child who's 21 who can function in the society."
Young Mark, who wasn't even making eye contact last year, is already showing signs of improvement after several months at 'Step By Step' a center specializing in ABA treatment in Suffolk.
He's still not speaking in sentences, but he can communicate with words and his Grandpa is dreaming of his future.
"I had this thought of Mark speaking at his commencement and
thanking us and thanking Virginia for changing the way they view
how to treat this illness."
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