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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.”
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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.”
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