Northam signs law expanding health care for people with autism

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ceremonially signed a new piece of legislation Tuesday that will expand health care services to people with autism.

The bill removes the age cap for autism coverage, expanding it to nearly 10,000 Virginians. The former law required coverage only up to age ten. The new law expands coverage for the entire life of the person with autism.

The Virginia Institute of Autism, in Charlottesville, has been pushing for this legislation for more than a decade. VIA's president, Ethan Long, said it will have a huge impact on the families they serve.

"It can be the difference between literally sitting at home, not interacting, being totally alone, to then being able to connect with the community around you," Long said. "There's so much unlocked potential in people with autism."

Long said the new bill will allow more local families to interact with therapists, which can help people with autism to better stay employed or to pursue their education.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 59 children has autism.

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