Governor Jay Nixon is asking House members to follow the lead of the state Senate and pass a bill that requires health insurance coverage of autism. The Missouri House members turned down the bill earlier this year.
According to the Kansas City Star, Governor Nixon is pressing for a bill that guarantees health insurance providers “will cover the most effective treatments for autism” and that includes “substantial provisions that make real differences for real families.” Governor Nixon has been traveling around the state making his case, appearing at an autism clinic affiliated with the University of Missouri, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, and an autism center in St. Louis.
According to a study called “Missouri Public Schools Autism Prevalence Report 1992 - 2003,” Missouri had 2,863 cases of autism in children in 2003. This is an underreported figure, however, because it does not include children who attend private schools or who are home taught, those who do not meet the eligibility criteria for the autism disability category, or those who are in regular education classes. Therefore the actual number of autistic children who would be covered by health insurance could be much higher.
This fall, Senators Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville) and Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) plan to introduce legislation. Senator Rupp introduced an autism health insurance bill that passed in the Missouri Senate in May, but the bill was prevented from reaching the floor of the House. Senator Schmitt has a child with an autism spectrum disorder.
Governor wants to see four elements in an autism health insurance bill: carriers must cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism, coverage must include specific therapies, and the minimum cap on benefits must not be less than $35,000 per year; no limit on doctor visits; and insurance carriers cannot refuse or terminate coverage because of an autism diagnosis. Health insurance companies claim that requiring coverage of autism will raise insurance premiums for all of their customers.
Representative Ron Richard (R-Joplin), who was largely responsible for preventing last year’s bill from reaching House vote, has changed his colors. This year, Rep. Richard created an independent Autism Spectrum Disorder Interim Committee that is charged with crafting a House version of the bill. The true test will take place this fall when the Missouri lawmakers return to once again hash out health insurance coverage legislation for autism.
Kansas City Star 8/6/09
Missouri Public Schools Autism Prevalence Report 1992 - 2003