By Maria Saporta
Although Georgia is becoming a national center for the diagnosis and treatment of autism, the state lags behind most of the other states in the nation when it comes to providing insurance for autism.
And there’s little hope that will change anytime soon.
In a story about Atlanta being designated as an Autism Center of Excellence by the National Institutes of Health, philanthropist Bernie Marcus, founder of the Marcus Autism Center, put it this way — although 33 states offer insurance coverage for children with autism, “Georgia is not one of them.”
Gov. Nathan Deal, after announcing the NIH $8.3 million grant to an Atlanta-based consortium of autism researchers and clinicians, was asked about the possibility of Georgia providing insurance for the treatment of the autism.
“Right now, because of the financial situation that our state faces, we simply can’t afford it,” Deal said. “I don’t think we are in a position to include that as a mandated coverage. We’ve got to get our financial house in order first.”
Asked whether it was a goal of his administration to provide that coverage eventually, Deal said: “It is certainly something we’ve talked about with people at the Marcus Autism Center. Unfortunately, the financial situation in our state does not make that possible at this time.”
Still, the governor is quite excited about the NIH designation and Georgia becoming a leading center for autism research and treatment.
“This will help bring additional outstanding researchers for autism to Georgia,” said Deal, crediting several individuals and institutions for collaborating and forming a partnership focused on a common goal. “Georgia has a history of achieving great things through partnerships. That will make Georgia a national center for the treatment and diagnosis of autism.”
The Marcus Autism Center – now part of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta), which served 5,676 patients in 2011, is largest center working with children with autism.