Proposed moratorium on new health insurance mandates tripped up by autism coverage bill

Posted by John Murawski on May 13, 2014 

House lawmakers found themselves in a quandary Tuesday.

If they voted for a proposal to restrict the Affordable Care they would have killed a bill requiring health coverage for certain autism treatments – something they overwhelmingly supported last year. So many members simply didn’t show up to a committee hearing to avoid an impossible choice.

The Joint Study Committee on the Affordable Care Act and Implementation Issues had to be postponed twice on Tuesday for lack of a quorum. A third committee hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday morning. The bill could die if it can’t get out of committee before the lawmakers convene their short session at noon.

The bill would have imposed a one-year moratorium on new health insurance mandates and also called for a study on how the Affordable Care Act is damaging the state’s economy.

But it was the moratorium that caused concern because it would have killed the autism bill which passed the state House last year but stalled in the Senate.

“Certainly the House has taken a fairly unified front in opposition today,” said Rep. Charles Jeter, a Republican from Mecklenburg County. “Their attendance was an indication of that.”

Out of 23 lawmakers required in attendance for a quorum, 18 turned up for discussion Tuesday afternoon. Fewer than that showed up in the hearing room in the morning.

Jeter, a committee member who supports the autism bill, said Wednesday’s debate will include an amendment that will exempt autism legislation from the insurance moratorium.

The proposed bill calls for a study to look at the cost to employers and residents from unfunded insurance mandates, and the potential cost to the entire state from the ACA. The bill also would require health insurers to disclose in their enrollment materials how much of an insurance premium is attributable to the ACA.

Last year’s autism bill, House Bill 498, would require insurers to cover applied behavior analysis as a treatment for children with autism. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s biggest health insurer, opposes the provision, which has passed in some form in 37 states.

Blue Cross says the autism behavior therapy is more educational than medical and is administered by therapists and teachers who are “non-licensed” and “non-skilled” as medical professionals.

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