Representatives of a nationwide autism organization are lobbying the North Carolina Senate for health insurance that covers autism treatments.
And one of those advocates tells WCHL they’re not leaving Raleigh until an autism insurance bill gets passed into law.
“What I can tell you is that we’re an army of people down here, including families,” said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, a national organization that advocates for people with autism and their families.
“There are more than 60,000 families here in North Carolina right now who are waiting for autism insurance coverage.”
Feld said that for the past two years, people from the organization have been “on the ground” in North Carolina, lobbying the General Assembly to pass a law that would require private insurance companies to provide coverage for autism therapies, including Applied Behavioral Analysis.
Thirty-seven states plus the District of Columbia have enacted autism insurance laws, and Autism Speaks aims to make North Carolina one of them by the end of this summer’s contentious short session of the legislature.
Such a provision already passed through the N.C. House of representatives in May of last year. Now it’s up to the State Senate, which is currently sparring with the House over the budget.
Feld said she’s hopeful it will get done.
“We know we have the support of the broader body, and we’ve been speaking to every single senator,” said Feld. “So what we need now is for the leadership to move along. And they’re obviously focused on their budget right now, and it’s just part of regulatory reform. So, we’re hopeful that they’re going to get this done sometime within the next 10 days, or certainly before they go home for the summer.”
Feld notes that providing support for families with autism is a rare bipartisan issue these days, and here in North Carolina, her organization hails Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis as a “champion” for the issue of autism insurance.
One reason for the bopartisanship, she said, is that people on both ends of the political spectrum realize the long-term savings accrued by providing autism treatments to kids as young as age 2, which is when children can be diagnosed.
She points to a Harvard study from a few years ago, which concluded that taxpayers spend about $3.2 million per child with autism over a lifetime.
And it’s likely to remain that way, said Feld, in states where children with autism are more likely to fall way behind in school.
“You know who’s picking up the tab for this?” she said. “The schools. Property tax payers. Ultimately, it’s going to be the government. These states are sitting on a ticking time bomb of cost.”