St. Louis Public Radio News
6:52 pm
Wed June 9, 2010

Nixon to sign autism insurance bill into law

Jefferson City, Mo. – Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will sign the autism insurance bill into law Thursday in St. Louis.

Passing an autism bill was a top priority this year for the Democratic governor and for lawmakers from both parties. It provides up to $40,000 a year in coverage for kids with autism age 18 and younger.

State Senator Eric Schmitt (R, Glendale) has a 5-year-old son with autism.

"These therapies can really be the difference between a child having meaningful relationships with other kids...being invited to a birthday party, a mom being able to take her daughter to a movie theater, a dad being able to take his son to a ball game, or a family being able to go out to a restaurant without having to leave after 15 minutes," Schmitt said.

Starting January 1st, insurance companies in Missouri will be required to cover Applied Behavioral Analysis, a therapy that has a successful track record but can also cost tens of thousands of dollars. State Representative Dwight Scharnhorst (R, Valley Park) sponsored the bill in the House.

"I've had families visit my office that have actually maxed out credit cards, paying household expenses and day-to-day things in order to provide the educational and medical treatment that their children (with autism) need," Scharnhorst said.

Scharnhorst added that the $40,000 in coverage will be adjusted annually for inflation.

Small business owners will be allowed to opt out if they can prove that providing autism insurance coverage causes their premiums to rise more than 2.5 percent a year.

Nixon will first sign the bill at a ceremony in St. Louis at 10 a.m., followed by ceremonies in Springfield and Columbia. Two more are scheduled for Friday in Kansas City and Joplin. A sixth ceremony is tentatively planned for next week in Cape Girardeau.