"I've been giving speeches on this bill for four years," said Delegate Mark Hunt, a Kanawha County Democrat whose 10-year-old son has autism.
Delegate Ralph Rodighiero's son is 18 and was diagnosed with autism at age 5.
After the diagnosis, Rodighiero's wife quit her job as a nurse. She received training at Marshall University and then spent all her time working with their son.
"It was a financial burden, but it was what had to be done to get my child where he is today," said Rodighiero, a Logan County Democrat whose son now attends community college and works in a local movie theater.
Freshman Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, has an 8-year-old son with autism. Living in Elkins, the closest provider of ABA therapy is a 90-minute drive away, she said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 110 American children have autism. It is four times more common in boys than in girls.
Fred Earley, president of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia -- the state's largest private insurer -- said he has concerns whenever a new requirement would add to the cost of insurance.
He also believes the House version will require too broad of coverage.
On Thursday, delegates amended the bill require insurance to pay for ABA tutors who are supervised by board-certified therapists.
The original House proposal would have only covered treatment provided by board-certified therapists.
America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents insurance companies nationwide, generally opposes laws that require coverage of certain treatments, said spokeswoman Susan Pisano, citing the costs.
"There's a cumulative impact from the hundreds, actually thousands, of mandates," passed throughout the country, she said.
Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, voted against the bill Thursday. He is concerned that it is too broad and could create "double-billing opportunities" for insurance companies, he said.
"It has a number of flaws in it," said Walters, who is an insurance agent. "I'm hoping the Senate will [fix them] and I'll be comfortable with it when it comes back."
Reach Alison Knezevich at alis...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.