Raleigh, N.C. — Employer-based insurance plans would have to cover treatment for patients with autism disorders under a bill that cleared the state House Wednesday night.
House Bill 498 would require plans to cover children and adults up to age 23 and provide up to $36,000 per year in coverage. The state employee health plan would also have to provide autism coverage.
"We're in a minority (of states) that doesn't provide for this sort of coverage," said Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson.
The measure ultimately passed 105-7 but came in for criticism from conservatives who called it a mandate that would increase the cost of doing business in the state.
As currently drafted, the measure allows small businesses – those with 50 or fewer employees – to opt out of the requirement if they can show the extra premium increases their insurance rates by more than 1 percent. That's similar to a Virginia law.
The House turned back amendments seeking to exempt small businesses entirely.
"Having a 3-year-old daughter, I just can't imagine being a parent and being in the position of parents with some of these children," said Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford.
Although he had misgivings about adding in requirements to the state insurance law, Blust added, "Maybe this isn't the place to draw the line on mandates."
The measure now goes to the state Senate for consideration.