Bernie Marcus to lawmakers: Close the autism gap

12:51 AM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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Bernie Marcus

ATLANTA -- In much the same way The Home Depot transformed home improvement, the Marcus Autism Center transformed the lives of families and their children. Both are the brainchilds of Bernie Marcus, a self made billionaire philanthropist who saw a need and met it.

"A lot of middle class people had a child and didn't know where to go."

For a man who seeks logical solutions to real problems, the struggle for House Bill 309 is a frustrating topic.

MORE | Sign the petitions for or against mandating insurance plans cover autism and see our complete The Autism Gap special coverage

"It doesn't make any sense. It just doesn't make any sense to me."

Marcus, a republican who speaks his mind -- says party politics have no place in this decision.

"This is disgraceful for this state. Thirty-two other states -- democratic, republican states, have all voted for this. Why is Georgia not doing it? It doesn't make sense to me."

Marcus singled out the lobbyists fighting hard to kill the bill.

"The insurance lobbies obviously don't want to cover it and yet we know the cost is only 32 cents per month per member. And they're fighting it tooth and nail. I put it into Home Depot years ago and I will tell you, it didn't break Home Depot."

Opponents of the bill say adding 32 cents opens the door to other causes that want other mandates, but to Marcus it's simple and he called Governor Deal.

Jaye Watson asked, "Did Governor Deal tell you he would support it, that he would try to push it, put in a good word?" Marcus answered, "He said all of those things. He said if the legislature passes it that he would support it and sign the legislation."

Marcus says the middle class is getting hurt worst of all by trying to help their children. "I've heard of people that have mortgaged their houses, have gone into bankruptcy are now living in apartments because they've lost their houses, because they can't take care of the children. Eventually these people will end up being the ward of the state also. Ultimately the state is going to pay for it."

To Bernie Marcus the solution is to pass the bill, get children help, get them independent. He says this solution saves money -- saves kids, saves families.

"My God, from a humanistic standpoint the destruction that this is causing on families and the emotional impact it's having on families how could you not do this as an american who's supposed to have a heart?"

When asked how he would feel if the bill doesn't pass, Marcus answered, "I'm going to be very disappointed in this state. I'm going to be disappointed in the legislators and everybody involved and I think it would be disgraceful and I think when people go to the polls next year they need to start thinking about this."

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