House Committee passes health care bill

04/22/08 Mitch E. Perry
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In Tallahassee, a plan to provide health insurance for children with autism and other development disabilities was passed by a committee in the state House.

A new program to increase insurance availability and other services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities passed through its first House committee . The plan would also expand to cover speech, behavioral and other therapies for children with developmental disabilities like autism, mental retardation and cerebral palsy.

Tallahassee Democrat Lorraine Ausley said that the insurance provision was critical, but when the rest of the Legislature convenes this weekend to work out the issue, they should slow down and look at everything else that needs to come together.

Like most of those on the House Health Care Council, Gayle Harrell, R-Port St. Lucie, gave much praise to the chair of the select Committee on Autism and Development Disorders, Andy Gardner (R- Orange County).

The program would also create a voluntary pre-kindergarten program for children with developmental disabilities and would and would change the requirements for the McKay Scholarship program.

But other House members warned that the fiscal realities might not allow for the legislation to move forward.

Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, has a godson who has autism, and he knows all the services such kids need. But he said that he’s seen the financial stress on these families without health care.

The program would limit health care coverage to those who would go on KidCare to $36,000 annually, and $108,000 overall. Broward County Democrat Ari Porth wants that lifted.

North Florida Republican Alan Hays also warned the committee that it should be cautious, despite the excitement of being able to help out so many underprivilidged.

Healthcare Council Chairman Andy Bean said he’d like to fund the program as is, but realizes that will be a formidable challenge with budgetary concerns looming. The House and Senate will be working on health care issues over the weekend. The session ends a week from Friday.

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