The Senate has given preliminary approval to SCS/SB 167 – legislation that would require health carriers that issue or renew health benefit plans on or after January 1st of next year to provide individuals under the age of 18 with coverage for diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
The coverage is mandated for group policies but is not mandated for individual policies. Individuals would, however, be offered an option to purchase autism-related coverage.
Another component of the legislation would prohibit insurance carriers from refusing to issue coverage or refusing to renew coverage to an individual or a dependent based solely on the individual’s having been diagnoses with an autism spectrum disorder.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville), who defended the legislation as concerns were raised by Senator Chuck Purgason (R-Caulfield), who worries about added insurance costs being passed along to employers.
“Do you think the timing might not be very good on this,” asked Purgason. “If it an added cost to employers?”
“I think it’s kind of like having kids,” responded Rupp. “If you wait for the right time then you end up never having ’em. So, you just need to do it when it should be done and now’s the time to do it.”
Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) injected a personal touch into the debate when he spoke of his four-year-old son.
“My son, Stephen, who is four-and-a-half, is on the autism spectrum,” stated Schmitt. “So I have seen, first hand, some of the great challenges that these children endure and that their families have to deal with, as well.”
The bill passed on a voice vote. One more positive vote is needed in the Senate before the bill can be sent to the House. The House has similar legislation which is being considered.