Raleigh, N.C. — Call it the compromise that wasn't.
A joint legislative committee studying the state's response to the federal Affordable Care Act failed Wednesday morning for the third time in two days to get enough of its 46 members together to pass a bill dealing with insurance mandates.That's despite the fact some lawmakers thought they had reached a compromise Tuesday night. Autism coverage stalls legislative vote against Affordable Care Act
"I think any time you have three committee meetings in a row where people don't show up, that's probably an organized effort," said Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg.
State House members stayed away from the meeting in order to deprive it of a quorum needed to function.
The committee had been set to recommend that the full legislature, which begins at noon Wednesday, consider a bill that would declare a two-year moratorium on new requirements that insurance companies cover certain ailments and treatments.
That ban on mandates had been of particular concern to the families of children with autism, who said they worried that it could derail their effort to pass a new requirement that insurers cover behavioral therapy for their children.
Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, insisted that the bill would not have affected a bill pending in the Senate dealing with autism. But those assurances didn't seem to assuage those concerned about the bill.
To placate those families, lawmakers had agreed to add an amendment to the bill that would have specifically exempted autism disorders from the mandates moratorium.
"To be honest with you, I thought we had a compromise," Hartsell said, adding that "fear" killed the measure.
Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, said that he was surprised that members of his own chamber, as well as a number of senators, stayed away from the meeting.
"If anyone has been contacting people to make them absent, I haven't been part of that," said Collins, who supports the measure without an exception for autism.
Interim committees are important. House and Senate rules limit the number of subjects the General Assembly can take up this year. A nod from an interim committee allows a measure to move forward freely through the normal order of business.
However, Wednesday's failure does not necessarily kill the bill. Senate and House committees have been known to refashion measures that have already passed one chamber or another and re-purpose them. Such as "gut and amend" procedure could allow the mandate moratorium to move forward despite those rules.
"I confess I have done that in times past," Hartsell said when asked about that possibility.