St. Louis Public Radio News
6:54 pm
Tue September 15, 2009

Mo. House committee explores autism insurance

Jefferson City, MO – Missouri lawmakers heard competing testimony today on the cost of requiring health insurance companies to cover the treatment of children with autism.

Shannon Cooper of Clinton is a former Republican lawmaker who now lobbies for the insurance industry. He testified that mandating insurance coverage could hurt small businesses.

"Mandates such as this would have a higher cost because you don't have as many members to spread that cost out on, so as insurance rates go up, more and more people can no longer afford that insurance, and from our industry's standpoint, that's not good...it's not good public policy," Cooper said.

Lorri Unumb of Lexington, South Carolina, is the mother of an autistic child. She helped get an autism insurance bill passed in her home state.

Unumb told Missouri lawmakers that passing similar legislation here would be cheaper than letting taxpayers foot the bill.

"There is a huge autism tsunami that is going to hit the state of Missouri, and it's going to cost an extraordinary amount of money in special education and adult care, institutionalization costs, if this current generation of kids does not get the treatment they need," Unumb said.

The committee will use the testimony to craft autism legislation for the 2010 session.