Senator Charlie Bethel (left), District 54, speaks in favor of his Senate Bill 1, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage for autism-related disorders. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

5 things to know about Georgia's new autism law

As of July 1, a handful of new Georgia laws will go into effect. One of these includes the passage of a new law allowing treatment coverage for children with autism-related disorders. Here are five things you should know about the new law:

1. The law only pertains to children ages six and younger suffering from autism-related disorders. Under the legislation, these children will be eligible for up to $30,000 in annual insurance coverage for treatment.

2. After Gov. Nathan Deal signed the legislation Wednesday, Georgia became the 41st state in the nation to require insurers to cover any therapy for kids with autism.

3. Though the law passed both chambers unanimously, the fight was long and filled with compromise. For years, House leaders blocked the bill fearing the mandate would hurt small businesses. Some Republican leaders also had a particularly difficult time reaching a decision as strong anti-Obamacare sentiments in the Legislature hindered agreements. The compromise version slightly lowered the required  amount of coverage.

4. Personal appeals from parents of children with autism had a very big part in passing this law. In fact, Anna Bullard spent seven years fighting for this legislation after struggling to pay for therapy for her daughter, Ava, when she was 3 . As a fifth grader today, Ava said she will fight to lift the cap so the coverage can apply to children of all ages.

5. Though the legislation serves as a beacon of hope for many families, the bill is not without its critics. While some say the mandate makes good economic sense, influential business groups like the National Federation of Independent Business fear that the mandate will lead to higher healthcare costs and in turn create problems for employers to find money, ultimately forcing them to cut jobs or shorten hours.

For information about other Georgia laws going into effect July 1, click here.

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