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New Law Makes Accessing Treatment for Autism Easier

Mallory Noe-Payne

Across the country, one in every 59 children born today will be diagnosed with autism. Now in Virginia they can no longer be denied healthcare by insurance companies.

When Mark Llobell’s grandson was two years old he was diagnosed with autism. The doctor recommended behavioral therapy but warned insurance wouldn’t cover it. Llobell told the doctor that was unacceptable.

“I said I’m going to fix that I’m going to change that,” Llobell recalls. “And he smirked and laughed a little bit and he said ‘From your mouth to god’s ears there’s nothing more that would help the families in Virginia who have a child with autism than to have that changed.’,”

More than a decade later, autism advocates have done it. Beginning next year in Virginia, insurance companies will have to cover treatment.

At the bill signing Tuesday, Governor Ralph Northam says treatment can make a huge difference.

“We know that if we’re able to diagnose children at a young age and get them the access and treatment they need then the outcome is just remarkable, there’s tremendous success,” says Northam.  

That’s been the case for Llobell’s grandson. He lives in Virginia Beach with his father, Mark Llobell the second, and he used to be nonverbal. That’s changed because of the healthcare his grandfather had to pay for out of pocket.

“Me and my boy go to the beach he’s saying hi to everybody,” says Llobell the second. “He’ll hold a conversation with anybody."

Mark Llobell the third, now fourteen, proved that this week when he led the celebratory bill signing with the Pledge of Allegiance. He stood before a crowd at the state capitol and spoke loudly and clearly into the microphone.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.
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