St. Louis Public Radio News
6:13 pm
Thu February 18, 2010

Mo. House passes autism insurance bill

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri House has passed legislation that would mandate insurance coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

Lawmakers had said that autism legislation would be a top priority this year. The bill would require insurance providers in Missouri to cover up to $36,000 a year for behavioral therapy for kids age 18 and younger with autism.

The Senate version differs. It would provide $55,000 of coverage per year for those with autism under age 21. State Senator Eric Schmitt (R, Glendale), whose 5-year-old son Stephen has autism, remains hopeful that a compromise can be reached.

"These therapies that we're talking about are the difference between a mom being able to take her daughter to a movie, a dad taking his son to a ball game, a child having meaningful relationships and friendships, being invited to a birthday party, a lot of things that we just take for granted," Schmitt said.

House leaders were roundly criticized in 2009 for not holding a vote on autism coverage. But House Speaker Ron Richard (R, Joplin) defended last year's inaction before reporters today at the Governor's Mansion.

"I mean, you all just kicked me in the butt every week on autism last year...I'm telling you, there wasn't a consensus! We made a consensus happen (this year) through (House Minority Floor Leader) Paul (LeVota) and I working through the process, and now it's a bill that we're proud of," Richard said.

St. Louis Public Radio also made calls to the Missouri Insurance Coalition for this story, but so far they have not commented. The group has said that mandating coverage for treatment of autism would harm small businesses.