The Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation, the umbrella group of tea party organizations in the state, has come out against a bill backed by House Speaker Bill Howell that would require businesses to provide insurance coverage for children with autism.
"Autism is certainly a heartbreaking condition and the treatments are a terrible financial strain for many families,'' said Mark Kevin Lloyd, chairman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation.
"The concern of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation with this bill is the inappropriate use of government," Lloyd said. "There is nothing stopping individual insurance companies from adding this coverage themselves as part of free market competition. Virginia, and our nation, has a history of private individuals and groups assisting those who are in unfortunate circumstances. Government is not an arm of compassion, and no matter how well intended, can never replace faith-based and private initiatives."
Howell's position, which all but ensures the bill will pass the General Assembly this year, has upset some members of his caucus, who question supporting a new mandate while opposing the health care overhaul passed last year. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that opposes the federal health care overhaul, began robocalls statewide Monday targeting Howell (R-Stafford) that will run through Wednesday's House vote.
The House tentatively approved the bill by voice vote Tuesday and will have final vote Wednesday.
"This is a misguided attempt by Speaker William Howell and a majority of his colleagues in the House of Delegates use government as a tool for compassion,'' Lloyd said. "By doing so they ignore the will of the people and, in particular, the tea party by anonymously voting in support of more big government mandates. It appears they are turning a deaf ear to citizens of the Commonwealth after the overwhelming rejection of health care mandates in the form of ObamaCare."
A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) is pending in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where the mandate has typically been supported.
The measure would require health insurers to pay for a specialized therapy known as applied behavioral analysis, as well as occupational, speech and other therapies, for children two to six years old.
The bill would cap annual costs at $35,000 and applies to businesses that employ more than 50 people and are not self-insured. It also covers public employees.
"If passed, (the bill) does nothing to stop a full-on expansion of this coverage, as well as any other mandated coverage the state sees fit, in the near future,'' Lloyd said. "This creates a slippery slope to a nanny-state type of government, eroding away the freedom of choice and autonomy that businesses and individuals enjoy today."