Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Three bills to watch in the Utah legislature

The 2015 Utah legislative session is almost over, but three bills of significance to the autism community are still to be decided.  Take a look at the following and if you support them, please e-mail or call your legislators.  You can find their contact info here.
1) Achieving a Better Life Experience Accounts, by Senator Todd Weiler

Sponsor:  Sen. Weiler
ABLE accounts are designed to let disabled people save for their future.  They are modeled after 529 college savings plans and have similar tax benefits.  A key feature is that assets (up to $100,000) in an ABLE account do not count against eligibility for SSI and other programs.  They share that feature with special needs trusts, but do not have the set-up and maintenance costs that a trust has.  They are also more flexible in the expenses they can be used to pay for.

After years of bipartisan effort, a federal law was signed last December allowing states to create ABLE accounts.  Now it's up to each state to do so.  Utah has been a national leader with its 529 educational savings plans and has an opportunity to do the same with ABLE accounts.

From the analysis we've seen, ABLE accounts are a great way to help people help themselves.  You can read more about ABLE accounts here.

Utah's bill to enact ABLE accounts was filed at the start of the session, but it has not yet been numbered.  With the record number of bills filed this session, the queue is long.  When it does appear, there won't be much time to get it passed.  If you support this, ask your legislators to help get it through.

Sponsor: Sen. Shiozawa

2) SB246 Licensing of Autism Providers, by Senator Brian Shiozawa

This bill is provides a way for the state to certify who can provide behavioral therapy.  It allows for two levels of therapists:  behavior specialists and assistant behavior specialists.

We've seen cases in Utah of untrained and poorly managed people providing therapy, and this bill will help address that.  Between last year's insurance law, organizations self-adopting coverage, and upcoming changes to Medicaid, we hope that many more people will have access to therapy in the coming years.  That means we will need more providers.  We want a way to tell if they're qualified to provide care.

Sponsor: Rep. Redd
3) HB199 Pilot Program for Assistance for Children with Disabilities and Complex Medical Conditions, by Representative Ed Redd

This Medicaid waiver program does not specifically address autism, but prioritizes access based on the complexity of the child's medical condition and the financial needs of the child and family.  Some children have to cope with autism in addition to other serious conditions.

You can read more about it here.