JEFFERSON CITY - Parents of children with autism are one step closer to legal insurance rights for their children.
Senate committee members unanimously voted Tuesday to pass a bill that would mandate insurance coverage the diagnosis and treatment of autism and related disorders.
Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, sponsored the bill that would allow individuals under certain conditions under the age of 21 for up to $72,000 in coverage per year.
Gov. Jay Nixon has advocated for the bill and commended the committee action. 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. "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 charged the measure would increase health insurance costs.
Legislative staff estimate the increased coverage would cost state General Revenue $7.2 million in the first full year of implementation for coverage of children of government workers. The staff predicted that cost would fall by half in the next year as demand fell.
The staff wrote that they did not include the costs of "diagnosis creep" that staff of the state government employee health care plan had predicted.
"Diagnosis creep occurs when diagnosis criteria are expanded, allowing larger populations to become diagnosed with a condition so that insurance covers the costs of treatments," legislative staff wrote.
A pair of House bills for 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 by a vote in the House.