Autism Insurance Update: Insurance Committee Hearing for H 498 Scheduled!


House Bill 498 that would require group insurance plans and the state health plan in North Carolina to cover treatment of autism is scheduled for a House Insurance Committee hearing on Tuesday May 14, 2013 at 1PM in room 1228/1327 of the Legislative Building. The House bill would ensure that plans for companies that operate in North Carolina and that are required to follow North Carolina insurance laws would cover diagnosis and treatment of autism, including applied behavioral therapy. Thirty-three states now have similar laws requiring autism insurance coverage. You can read Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) CEO Tracey Sheriff’s opinion piece about the law  as well as parent Beverly Moore’s op-ed. The Insurance Committee hearing is the first step in passing the bill in the NC House; if it receives a favorable report (majority vote yes to move it forward) it will likely go to an Appropriation Committee and then to the House floor for two votes. Once it passes the House, we move on to advocating for it to pass in the NC Senate.  It must pass both NC House and NC Senate chambers and be signed by the Governor to become law.

If you are signed up for ASNC’s monthly e-newsletter, and you live or work in one of the districts represented by a NC General Assembly House Insurance Committee member, you should already have gotten an alert from ASNC asking for your help. (If you have not updated your email address with us, please sign up so we can update your information.)

We are asking that constituents (meaning you live and or work in their legislative district) contact their own legislators who sit on the House Insurance Committee and ask for their support on H498. Please do not email or call every member of the Insurance Committee.

  • Look up your NC House of Representatives Legislator using the district map (it is the one at the very top).
  • Look up the list of Insurance Committee members to see if your Legislator is on the committee.
  • If they are, please email or call and ask for their support on H498. Share a short version of your story about how autism has affected you, your family or those you care about.

If your NC General Assembly House Member does not sit on the Insurance Committee, you may still contact them to ask for their support. Look up your NC House of Representatives Legislator.

  • Please look at the list of sponsors for H498 before you take any action.
  • If your House member is a co-sponsor, you can thank them for their support on H 498 and ask that they continue that support throughout the process of getting the bill passed.
  • If your House member is not a co-sponsor, ask that they support H 498 when it comes up for a vote.
  • Share a short version of your story about how autism has affected you, your family or those you care about.

If you are considering  attending the House Insurance Committee hearing next Tuesday, you should know a few things before going to the Legislature:

  • Your advocacy has helped us get to this point, regardless if you can attend that day or not.
    • Personal contact with your legislators in person, by phone, in letters and in emails is still the best way to be an effective advocate and we thank you for all your efforts on this issue and all the others that help those on the autism spectrum and their families.
  • The day of the hearing is not a day to protest or to “storm the gates.”
    • Signs and posters are not allowed in the legislative building. While many of us are frustrated about the length of time it has taken to pass the bill in North Carolina, expressing that frustration will not help the cause. Respectful and courteous behavior, even in the face of disagreement over the issue, is the best way to represent our issues.
  • The bill may or may not be heard the day it is put on the committee calendar.
    • Sometimes bills get put on the committee’s agenda, but get moved to another day. This is normal during busy legislative weeks and does not mean there is no support for the bill or that the bill will not pass.
  • Room 1228/1327 where the House Insurance Committee meets is a small narrow room in the legislative building with about 80 seats in the audience.
    • It will be crowded with legislators, staff, reporters, lobbyists, and other people interested in this bill and in other bills on the agenda. Please be sure to make arrangements for childcare as this is not a good day to bring your child(ren).
  • The audience at the committee meeting *will not* be invited to speak about the bill.
    • In fact, audiences at the legislature cannot clap, shout, or otherwise comment loudly on the proceedings. Your opportunity to speak to your legislators about the bill comes before or after the meeting. If you want to try and arrange a meeting, please contact Jennifer Mahan at the Autism Society of NC or contact your legislator directly. Please know you may not be able to get a confirmed meeting at the last minute and meetings frequently change.
  • The Insurance Committee room has bad sound.
    • You may have difficulty hearing the questions or responses because the room is not set up well for sound. Legislators at the front of the room can hear each other and hear the presenters, but there may be times when you cannot hear.
  • Legislators are not experts in autism.
    • You have done a lot to educate them about autism over the last few years (and decades) but they may ask questions or make comments that surprise you. The speakers may or may not fully address the issues in the short time to discuss the bill. This is an opportunity to continue to educate people after the meetings.
  • Please look at the Legislative website citizen’s guide and other information about the downtown area in order to locate the building and public parking.
    • Parking sometimes fills up during the day because the Legislative building is located near several museums. Most public lots are two dollars an hour or more for parking and take credit and cash. Please be sure to park legally – Raleigh tickets and tows regularly.

Reminder: The NC General Assembly (NC House and NC Senate) is responsible for passing laws in North Carolina. Congress (which also has a House and a Senate) passes laws for the entire country, including North Carolina. Some insurance plans, such as those for those for multi-state or multi-national companies, those that are self-funded, and those for Federal employees, are the responsibility of the Federal Government and Congress. The NC General Assembly cannot pass legislation changing those insurance requirements. If you have questions about who represents you in the General Assembly or in Congress, or questions about this or any public policy issue, please contact Jennifer Mahan, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the Autism Society of North Carolina. Or you can post your questions in the comments section below.


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