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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A bill requiring employee-based insurance plans to cover treatment and therapy for patients with autism disorders passed the state House Wednesday night.

“We’ve been working for about five years to try to get coverage for children with autism,” said Selene Johnson, executive director of ABC of N.C. Child Development in Winston-Salem.

With therapy, the non-profit school helps children with communication and social skills in addition to dealing with some of the behaviors that often accompany autism.

“We rely on grants and private donations to help families but that can only go so far,” Johnson said.

The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, would require insurance plans to cover children and adults up to age 23 and provide up to $36,000 in annual coverage.

“You get that diagnoses of autism, you are very crest fall and then what really hits you — that you turn to your insurance carrier and realize they are not going to help you at all,” said Darryl Marsch, whose 14-year-old son Harrison was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.

Marsch and his family currently pay for therapy treatment out-of-pocket.

“It just continually makes a difference every day,” Marsch said.

Across the country, 32 states already mandate that insurance companies pay for therapy treatments.

“There is now evidence-based support for the treatment,” said Dr. Kurt Klinepeter, an associate professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “There is hope that therapy will make a difference.”