JEFFERSON CITY — Molly Myers wishes there was a cure for physical and developmental disabilities.

“Wouldn’t it be so amazing if there were?” she said at a state Senate committee hearing. “The day that I got the phone call that my son was missing the middle portion of his brain, if the next thing out of the physician’s words had been, ‘But don’t worry there’s a pill. We’ll grow it back and everything’s going to be OK.’ But there’s not.”

So Myers, along with many other families with children with these disabilities, clings to the hope that therapies can help people with disabilities.

The Missouri Senate is considering a bill that, if passed, would add coverage for developmental and physical disabilities to an existing mandate that requires that health insurance covers disorders on the autism spectrum.

Essentially, under Senate Bill 45, sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, third-party health care service payers wouldn’t be able to limit or deny coverage for medically necessary treatment for those with developmental disabilities that aren’t currently specified in the autism legislation.

It was standing-room only this week when the bill was introduced.

Myers’ son, Will, has been through many medically necessary therapies, she said. Even things such as picking up a spoon required help.

“He never hit a developmental milestone on his own,” she said. “Every single thing was a learned activity.”

One man said his 4-year-old daughter has a rare genetic syndrome and had 12 surgeries in her first three years of life, including an open heart surgery. She needs more than 100 sessions of therapy each year, he said.

His family is on a state employee insurance plan, which is more generous than the law requires. Still, he and his wife both work full-time to be able to afford to give her the care she needs, he said.

Still, some worry about insurance costs rising. Shannon Cooper testified representing America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Missouri Insurance Coalition.

“Obviously our policy is always to oppose mandates, because they can drive up costs of policies,” he said. “With that being said, we have worked with the advocates over the last two years to try and come to somewhat of a compromise.”

He said a solution is being sought that would keep the cost of insurance under control.

This is the third year that legislation like this has been brought forward. State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, has championed these bills in the Missouri House of Representatives since 2017. This year, he is sponsoring House Bill 399, the House version of Senate Bill 45.

Basye said he’s hopeful that this will be the year this legislation passes, and he is making this bill one of his main priorities.

“I just think it’s something that we should do to help these kids that have these disabilities,” he said. “No one will dispute that it’s just a proven fact that the earlier a child gets a steady therapy program, a consistent therapy program, the better off they are later in their childhood and even into adulthood.”

Myers said that giving a child all the medical therapies they need is the same as giving someone the correct number of pills they have to take a day.

“We are not asking for a handout, but we are asking that we are, by the medical expert, approved for every single therapy that Will needs so that he can thrive in this life,” Myers said, “not just survive it.”

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.

  • State government reporter and graduate journalism student at the University of Missouri. Graduated with a BA in journalism from The University of Alabama in 2018.

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