Editorials

Progress in NC toward autism coverage

Autism is a cruel mystery, a “neurodevelopmental” disorder that in children affects the ability to communicate and organize thoughts. That is at least one characterization, but there are many, and medical research still focuses on understanding the problem. Some autistic people succeed as adults; others do not.

But insurance coverage for treating autism has been widely varying, and in North Carolina expanded coverage has been held up by disputes among insurance companies and advocates for those who have the disorder. Now, a bill from state Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville has made at least some progress toward expanding coverage of autism.

Doctors, advocates and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina worked on a compromise that would help with coverage after a years-long standoff.

Though support for the measure is apparently not unanimous, with one advocacy group wanting coverage for a specific type of treatment that insurance companies have resisted, it does appear to have pretty strong backing otherwise, and credit Apodaca for getting things moving at last.

Sometimes, legislation that doesn’t satisfy all involved can be a small step that can lead to bigger steps. That’s something that’s a hard-sell to passionate advocates with the best interest of patients – particularly many young patients, in this case – at heart.

And just as other mysterious illnesses and disorders are in research with hopes for a cure, so it is with autism. It is a matter of hope and faith and science.

Still, it helps families coping with autism to know that they can get access to insurance coverage for an expense that would be prohibitive to many. This is progress.

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