RALEIGH, NC (July 15, 2014) -- With time running short in the current legislative session, families from around North Carolina rallied at the Capitol today to demand the state Senate consider an autism insurance reform bill already passed twice by the House.
At the rally, Autism Speaks President Liz Feld issued an open letter to Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of North Carolina to drop its opposition and cover autism treatment as is done in 37 other states. During the time North Carolina lawmakers have battled over the bill, five other states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands have enacted insurance reform laws, while another six states have strengthened their existing laws.
"We are facing aggressive and expensive opposition for this coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield and your team of lobbyists," Feld wrote in her letter to BCBS President J. Bradley Wilson. "Historically, BCBS has been committed to supporting the 'most vulnerable' in our society.
"Those living with an autism spectrum disorder need your commitment to include them," Feld said, in urging BCBS to support the bill. "North Carolina residents should not suffer without autism insurance, while residents in 37 other states receive fair coverage."
The open letter coincides with an aggressive newspaper ad campaign launched this week by Autism Speaks taking on BCBS and urging passage.
The North Carolina House of Representatives twice since 2013 has passed legislation that would require state-regulated private health insurers to cover autism treatments, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as well as speech, occupational and physical therapies. BCBS continues to argue that ABA is "experimental" and should be provided in schools at taxpayer expense.
In the House, Speaker Thom Tillis has championed the bill, leading its passage in that chamber and working with Senate leadership to move the bill in that chamber. In a recent poll commissioned by Autism Speaks, 82 percent of North Carolinians supported autism insurance reform.
The original bill, HB.498, was approved 105-7 last year by the House then referred to the Senate Insurance Committee, chaired by Sen. Tom Apodaca. The bill was never heard.
This year, the House added the autism bill into a Senate regulatory reform bill, SB.493, and returned it to the Senate. The measure was referred to the Rules and Operations Committee, also chaired by Apodaca.
[slideshow:2, order=top, width=600, height=440, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/essaylorrishakinghands.jpg||| Autism Speaks VP Lorri Unumb greets a supporter in front of the Capitol in Raleigh.||, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/essaykidwithtoy.jpg||| A family joins the rally at the Capitol in Raleigh.||, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/essayhandshake.jpg|||Autism Speaks lobbyist Jimmy Broughton joins the rally||, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/essayhug.jpg||| Families rallied at the Capitol in Raleigh to call for autism insurance reform. ||, img=| /sites/default/files/docs/essaybacks.jpg|||Dozens of families joined the rally.||,]