House Speaker Ron Richard defends his action that kept an autism insurance mandate bill from coming to the House floor for debate, dismissing criticism leveled by Governor Nixon.

Governor Nixon has been harshly critical of House leadership for blocking SB 167 which easily passed the Senate.

"That bill never came up for a vote on the House floor," Nixon stated during a news conference held at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Columbia .

Nixon, a Democrat, outlined his requirements for an acceptable autism bill during his visit to the center. The governor says health insurance carriers must provide diagnosis and treatment, ABA treatment must be included, treatment caps must be excluded, and insurance companies must not be allowed to terminate a policy due to an autism diagnosis.

Nixon favored the bill approved in the Senate. He has stated repeatedly that there are no excuses for the House not to vote on the measure. He has blamed House leadership for blocking a vote.

Despite the fact that a House committee approved the Senate bill, Speaker Richard, a Republican from Joplin, told the Missourinet he didn’t believe the bill was ripe for a vote.

"If I thought it was ripe for a vote, I would have sent it to the floor," Richard said.

Richard said that though the bill passed a House committee, many House members expressed concerns about its cost. He rejected the governor’s charge that the only argument against the bill was that the insurance industry didn’t want it.

"You’re talking about the criticism of the governor?" Richard asked, "That’s OK. We just thought, and I thought, it was in the best interest (of the legislature) to have a good, solid solution and we weren’t there yet."

Richard has appointed an Interim Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorders to build consensus on the issue.

"We want to make sure it works, it’s affordable and it’s transparent and it doesn’t go to the form of big government, what the president wants to do," Richard said.

Richard vowed that an autism bill will be the first bill the House takes up next year.

In a letter sent to Missouri newspapers, Richard stated he’s urging Governor Nixon to leave politics out of this sensitive issue and directly engage with House Leadership.

Nixon, responding to reporters during the Columbia visit, said he will have an opportunity to visit with Speaker Richard, stating that the two don’t always agree, but have a good personal relationship and have been able to work together.


Download/listen Brent Martin reports (1:15 MP3)