CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill in Charlotte Thursday that will require insurance plans to cover certain treatments for autism.
The bill was signed at the Mecklenburg County Government Center around 1 p.m. The bill, which passed last month, will require some insurance plans to cover therapies proven to help children on the autism spectrum.
McCrory said on Twitter following the signing that he was "Proud to sign the Autism Health Insurance Coverage Act into law today."
"Thank you to the advocates, parents & leaders who made this possible," McCrory said.
North Carolina becomes the 43rd state to pass a version of autism insurance reform. After the signing the governor handed out pens to many autism advocates who have along fought for the bill's passage.
"(Autism) is more common than childhood cancer. It's more common than Cystic Fibrosis. It's more common than multiple sclerosis combined," said McCrory. "Today I'm proud to say we're taking action because of families. We're taking action because of children and we're taking action because of good public servants who have been listening for several years and we finally made it happen."
Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of North Carolina are two organizations that lobbied for the new law.
"Today is a major victory for the autism community," said Lorri Unumb, Esq. Vice President, State Government Affairs for Autism Speaks. "We are grateful for the hard work of Senator (Tom) Apodaca and Representative Chuck McGrady to bring autism insurance reform to North Carolina and for Governor McCrory for enacting these important reforms and for his ongoing commitment to the autism community."
Stephanie Mullen, who has a child on the autism spectrum was on hand for the bill signing.
"For parents who are newly diagnosed, or even with young ones, they will be able to get the help here in North Carolina that yesterday were weren't able to get," said Mullen. "So this is an absolutely wonderful day."
The bill requires treatment coverage for therapeutic care, psychiatric care, psychological care,pharmacy care and adaptive behavior treatment, which includes Applied Behavior Analysis when determined to be medically necessary. The coverage can be capped at $40,000 per year and is available to those under 18 years of age.
"What a long, challenging journey it has been, but today, autism families across North Carolina celebrate," said Shea Capps, an Autism Speaks advocate.
Not all health plans are subject to the new mandate. According to Autism Speaks, those required to provide coverage include large group plans (those with 100+ employees); plans sold to individuals and small groups that have been in effect and essentially unchanged since March of 2010); and transitional or "grandmothered" plans (plans sold to individuals and small groups that are not grandfathered but were in effect prior to 2014.)
The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce fought against the bill, saying it would raise insurance premiums, which would hurt small businesses.
South Carolina was one of the first states to pass such a law back in 2007.