NEW YORK, NY (June 11, 2010) -- Autism Speaks joined Missouri families, the Missouri Autism Coalition, and other autism organizations yesterday in applauding Governor Jay Nixon for signing into law House Bill 1311, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies, including behavioral health treatment such as applied behavior analysis. Governor Nixon signed the bill into law yesterday in Jefferson City, beginning a multi-city signing tour scheduled for several cities around the state.
The final version of HB 1311 includes coverage for applied behavior analysis (ABA) for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) up to $40,000 per year, or more if medically necessary, through age 18. Insurance coverage for non-ABA therapies is not subject to age limits or monetary caps. Insurers cannot impose visit limits on any coverage under the new law, other than the dollar cap on ABA.
"This is a great day for the thousands of Missouri families that had been financially devastated by the lack of insurance coverage for necessary autism therapies," said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. Legislatures across the country are introducing and passing bills that put an end to the discriminatory practices by insurance companies against children with an autism diagnosis. We thank Missouri's legislators and Governor Nixon for having the courage to put families and their needs first."
HB 1311 was sponsored in the House by Representative Dwight Scharnhorst and combined with a bill (HB 1341) that was sponsored by Representative Jason Grill. A companion bill, SB 618, was originally introduced in the Senate and sponsored by Senator Scott Rupp.
In many states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary treatments. In addition to Missouri, twenty other states Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin have passed similar autism insurance reform bills. A bill in New Hampshire has been passed by the legislature and is awaiting the governors signature.
"This new law will make Missouri a national leader in the diagnosis and treatment of autism, and it will lift a tremendous burden from thousands of families across our state," said Governor Nixon. "With the bill I'm signing today, parents of children with autism - who have faithfully paid their insurance premiums - will finally get the coverage they are entitled to. The law will ensure that ABA therapy is covered and that families will not get kicked off their insurance plans or otherwise limited in their insurance options because they have a child with autism."
The local autism community, including parents, grandparents, advocates, and local organizations, was instrumental in getting HB 1311 passed into law. Throughout the process they met with legislators frequently, reached out to them via phone and email, and attended hearings at the state capitol.
"I am thrilled with the enactment of HB 1311 and the commencement of coverage of the diagnosis and treatment of autism in Missouri, said Bill Bolster, father of a child with autism and Autism Speaks Missouri Chapter Advocacy Chair. More importantly, the work that led to passage of HB 1311 over three years brought the autism community in Missouri together in a way that will last and grow in the future for the benefit of people and families touched by autism in Missouri."