N.C. bills requiring health insurance providers to cover people with autism still in committee as legislators mull budget

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Marcus Danner, an adult with autism, chops carrots for a cooking group held last fall by The Spectrum, an Asheville-based nonprofit. Proposed North Carolina legislation would mandate health insurance companies to cover people with autism. Photo by Mike Belleme.

North Carolina House and Senate bills that would require all health benefit plans in the state to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder are lingering in committees as legislators grapple with the state budget.

“We’re continuing to monitor these bills,” said David Laxton, director of communications for the Autism Society of North Carolina, a nonprofit advocacy group that supports these bills. “It’s a waiting game.”

Senate Bill 115 was introduced Feb. 23. After it passed a first reading in the Senate on Feb. 24, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Insurance where it remains. Comparable House Bill 826 was filed April 6. The next day, the House passed a first reading of the bill and sent it on to the House Committee on Health and Human Services.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, which has about 3.7 million customers and is the largest health insurance provider in the state, takes the position that the legislation is not necessary. BCBSNC says it already provides medical coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism, a range of neurodevelopmental disabilities.

However, the insurance company’s medical directors determined that applied behavior analysis, or ABA, therapy for people with autism is an educational rather than a medical therapy. Advocates like the Autism Society of North Carolina disagree and say medical research indicates ABA therapy constitutes a medical rather than educational treatment.

In addition to keeping tabs on the autism health insurance bills, Laxton said the Autism Society of North Carolina also is monitoring the state budget proposals because he said “a good amount of services and support (for people with autism) could be impacted.”

READ THE CURRENT SENATE AND HOUSE BILLS

  • Senate Bill 115-Autism Health Insurance
  • House Bill 826-Autism Health Insurance
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    MORE AUTISM-RELATED NEWS COVERAGE FROM CAROLINA PUBLIC PRESS

  • Read a previous story about the North Carolina autism insurance bill.
  • Read about an Asheville program providing social activities to children and adults with autism.
  • View a photo essay about the program.
  • Consult a list of Western North Carolina resources for children and adults living with autism.
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    About the Author

    Kathleen O. Davis

    Kathleen O. Davis is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press. Contact her at kathleenodavis@gmail.com.

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