Raleigh, N.C. — Despite the irritation of some members over debating provisions that they had approved earlier, the House on Wednesday passed a package of health- and safety-related measures.
Senate Bill 493 was initially a wide-ranging regulatory reform bill, but it was split apart on Tuesday, and business- and government-related issues were moved into a separate bill. What remained were provisions such as such as requiring insurers to cover behavioral treatment for young people with autism, setting rules for pharmacy benefits management organizations and prohibiting anyone younger than 18 from using tanning beds.
Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, won approval for an amendment that would require insurance companies to cover oral cancer drugs, although some lawmakers complained about piling another mandate on insurers.
"If we're mandating something, I'm not sure it's regulatory reform," said Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union.
Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, tried to include marriage and family therapists in the autism treatment provision, saying that they cover the same areas as the social workers included in the bill. His amendment was narrowly defeated.
"We don't want to ask insurers to pay for things that aren't needed," Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said in arguing against Blackwell's proposal.
The House has already passed standalone bills on autism coverage, oral cancer drugs and tanning beds, but all have stalled in the Senate. Tossing them into what was supposed to be a regulatory reform bill to get a second bite at the apple – or third for the tanning bed ban, which also was included in the House budget bill – is misguided, said Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford.
"I wonder about the rationale and utility of resending bills," Blust said. "It just doesn't feel right to be resending and repackaging bills."
Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, was more blunt, calling the effort "a waste of everybody's time."
"What they do when it gets to the other side," Speciale said, referring to the Senate, "we can't control."
But Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said the House needs to repackage bills to ensure the Senate gives them a hearing.
"Certain bills you send over, and they just go away," Stam said. "This (Senate Bill 493) has to get their attention because it's got things they want."
Other lawmakers opposed the bill because of the insurance mandates, saying they would add to the cost of doing business in North Carolina.
With the House's 77-33 vote to approve the bill, it now returns to the Senate to see if senators agree with the changes.