VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Hard work and determination are finally paying off for a Virginia Beach man and an estimated 25,000 Virginians with autism.
Mark Llobell, founder of the Virginia Autism Foundation, has fought to get insurance coverage for people with autism for more than a decade.
This week, he expects it will happen. Virginia lawmakers are on course to pass legislation that will require insurance providers to cover treatments for patients of any age.
“It’s really good news, we’re so excited,” Llobell told WAVY.com.
It’s been a long journey for Llobell, which began in 2006. He remembers the doctor saying, “‘The good news is, I’m going to diagnose your grandson with autism, the bad news is you’re on your own now because you’re really not going to get any help to get him the help he needs,’ and I just found that unacceptable.”
10 On Your Side first introduced you to the Llobells in 2009 when Mark Llobell pushed the first bills to change Virginia law.
His grandson, Mark Llobell III, was just four years old and nonverbal.
His grandfather paid out of pocket for therapy, and saw tremendous success. Last month, at age 14, Mark led a news conference on autism legislation for Speaker of the House Kirk Cox in Richmond.
As proud as his grandfather is for all of Mark’s milestones, he has been sad for years, for those who can’t afford help.
“I said I don’t care how long this is going to take, we are going to remedy this here in Virginia for all of the kids who have autism here.”
Year after year, he took bill after bill to Richmond.
Lawmakers did pass one, which now requires insurance to cover kids ages 2-10, but that wasn’t good enough for Mark.
He knows that most kids aren’t diagnosed until they’re between the ages of 6 & 7.
He worked with local Delegate Chris Jones and Delegate Bob Thomas over the last year to get coverage for all.
During that recent news conference, Thomas said, “No other health impairment, including asthma, diabetes, or cancer has such age limits imposed on them, and we believe autism should be treated no differently.”
They’ll take it to the full floor this week, and Mark is confident they have all the votes, as an identical bill already passed the House. The Senate also passed the bill earlier this month.
“There’s nothing that’s going to stop this train, and all of our families are going to be able to get the coverage they need,” Llobell said.
If all goes as Llobell expects, and Gov. Northam signs it, insurance coverage for all with autism will begin in January 2020.