Autism coverage bill clears Missouri Senate commitee

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 | 8:09 p.m. CST; updated 9:43 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 26, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — Parents of children with autism are one step closer to guaranteed insurance coverage for their children.

Missouri Senate committee members unanimously voted Tuesday to pass a bill that would mandate insurance coverage for treatment of autism and related disorders.

Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, sponsored the bill, which would allow people younger than 21 under certain conditions up to $72,000 in coverage per year.

Gov. Jay Nixon has advocated for the bill. Early diagnosis and treatment practices have been found to be very effective in treating children with autism, Nixon said.

"Without insurance coverage, the cost of these vital therapies often places an unbearable financial burden on those families," Nixon said in a release. "I applaud the committee for its bipartisan vote on the this autism bill and urge the General Assembly to continue its quick passage so I can sign it into law."

Critics have said the measure would increase health insurance costs.

Legislative staff estimate the increased coverage would cost the state $7.2 million in the first full year of implementation for coverage of government workers' children. The staff predicted that cost would fall by half in the next year as demand fell.

The staff also wrote that they did not include the costs of a potential expansion in diagnosis criteria, which would lead to more people for insurance to cover. 

A pair of House bills for a similar autism coverage mandate are currently sitting in committee. No action has been taken since the committee hearing last Tuesday.

Last year, a similar measure cleared the Senate but was blocked by House leadership.

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