Missouri Senate passes autism insurance mandate

JEFFERSON CITY | Some health insurers would be required to cover up to $45,000 annually of intensive therapy for autistic children under legislation passed today by the Missouri Senate.

Some parents of autistic children, who have lobbied for several years for an insurance mandate, expressed hope that lawmakers finally have hit upon a version that can reach the governor's desk by the May 14 end of the legislative session.

The Senate's 27-6 vote sends the bill back for final approval to the House, which passed a version with lower coverage caps earlier this year.

"I'm thrilled. This is a step that puts us at the goal line," said St. Louis attorney Bill Bolster, whose 13-year-old son has autism.

Bolster said insurance coverage of $45,000 "would mean the world to a lot of families and would also open up the world to a lot of kids." But the autism insurance mandate would not cover his family, nor the majority of Missourians.

The legislation applies primarily to people receiving health insurance from small- to medium-sized businesses whose group policies are regulated by the state. It would not apply to large employers who insure themselves and are federally regulated, such as the law firm where Bolster works.

Missourians with individual insurance policies would have an option — but not a requirement — to buy policies with autism coverage.