Gov. Nixon, Sen. Crowell, press to mandate insurance coverage for austim

Friday, April 24, 2009 ~ Updated 3:12 PM
Gov. Jay Nixon shakes hands with William McCain, 11, from Advance who has autism after Nixon toured the Judevine Center Friday for Austism in Cape Girardeau. Looking on is Myra Bax, left, director of the Cape Girardeau Judevine Center. Gov. Nixon came to the center to speak about his support for the passage of legislation that would require health insurance providers to cover treatments for those with autism in Missouri. (Elizabeth Dodd)

Gov. Jay Nixon pressed for passage of autism-related insurance legislation today in Cape Girardeau. The legislation would require health insurance providers to cover treatments and therapies for Missourians with autism.

He toured the Judevine Center for Autism with state Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), who earlier this year convinced Nixon to reinstate $2.4 million for construction of a new autism treatment facility planned for the campus of the Southeast Missouri State University.

Nixon and Crowell called for bipartisan support by state representatives of Senate Bill 167, one version of the autism insurance coverage mandate, which was approved Thursday. Nixon said Missouri would join nine other states with such coverage. He said autism is the only one of 12 disorders not coverage by insurance.

Kim Daniel of Cape Girardeau, whose twin 6-year-old daughters have autism, said improving access to services through insurance coverage is cost effective, because children with early proper therapy grow into more productive adults.Crowell said he supported the bill in light of the the growing number of children diagnosed with autism. He said reducing the amount of coverage, from $72,000 to $55,000 was key to the bill's passage in the Senate, and that he was willing to cut it down to $30,000 -- as long as "as many families as possible can benefit."

House Speaker Ron Richard, speaking on a conference call with reporters around the state, said on Thursday that he is uncertain about the impact of the proposal. He doesn't want the state taking on any new burdens or imposing new burdens on businesses.

"The discussion is, when we are unable to pass a comprehensive health care bill, are we wanting to put mandates on insurance, making it more costly at the present time? Adding a mandate for autism would mean a 1 to 2 percent to as much as 12 percent increase, according to studies."

He said not all insurance plans or companies would be included.

Nixon made the trip to Cape Girardeau with Department of Mental Health Director Keith Schafer; Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration Director John Huff; and Department of Social Services Director Ron Levy.

For more on this story, revisit www.semissourian.com or read Saturday's Southeast Missourian.

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