NC families push for better autism insurance coverage - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

NC families push for better autism insurance coverage

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Some families spend thousands of dollars out-of-pocket every year to provide behavioral therapies for their autistic children.

Some families don't have the money to pay of it, and insurance in North Carolina doesn't cover the therapy.

Stephanie Mullen says her five-year-old daughter, Sam, greatly benefited from the intensive behavioral therapies she had in California, which were covered by insurance. When the Mullens moved to North Carolina, they quickly found out the therapy Sam needed would have to paid for out-of-pocket.

Mullen has teamed up with other families to support House Bill 498, which would expand insurance coverage for autism, including behavioral therapies which Mullen says made such a difference for Sam.

The bill received overwhelming support from lawmakers in the North Carolina House last year, currently the bill is stuck in a Senate committee. She hopes the Senate brings it up for a vote this month.

Most states have similar healthcare legislation.

Autism advocate Bob D'Amelio feels like there is real hope this year to pass HB 498 during this month's short session in Raleigh. He's says there's been more awareness raised about the long-term benefit.

D'Amelio has two autistic sons and has worked with lawmakers to support the legislation for several years.

The stumbling block has been insurance companies who say the bill would be too costly.

"We oppose additional health insurance mandates at this time. North Carolina has 55 mandates already," said Lew Borman, a representative for Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina. "On top of rising medical costs, these proposed mandates would add to premium cost for North Carolina small businesses who are already facing financial challenges," he said in a statement.

Borman says BCBS of NC already offers extensive coverage for families living with autism in the form of prescription medicine coverage and doctors visits once a diagnosis is determined.

The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce also opposes the bill saying the cost would be too great for small business owners.

The current bill offers an exemption for business owners, if the cost after one year shows their premiums increase by more than 1-percent.

The advocacy group, Autism Speaks says the bill would raise insurance premium by about 31-cents.

Mullen and D'Amelio say the cost would pay off in the long run, when autistic children have the chance to grow into more capable adults.

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