Coverage for autism disorders is in front of the House Committee on Health Insurance. Whether insurance should be mandated to cover treatment is a legislative priority this year.

Insurance companies in Missouri aren’t required to cover therapies for autism disorders, but Gov. Nixon says they should be. He made it a top-listed legislative item last year, but the measure failed.

Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst (R-Manchester) is sponsoring a bill that would make that happen. He’s joined by hundreds of parents of children with autism in supporting the measure, but the insurance lobby doesn’t agree.

David Smith with Blue Cross Blue Shield says at the end of the day, it’s not the insurance companies, but the consumers that would be hurt by it.

Analysts have testified that the insurance premium hike would be around 1 percent if the mandate goes into effect, but Smith says the numbers of cases reported are so variable that no one can say for sure.

The bill passed the Senate in 2009 but never got to the floor for a vote in the House. House Speaker Ron Richard says he’ll get it on the calendar early this year.

The legislature has heard hours of emotional testimony from parents who are paying about $75,000 dollars out of pocket each year to get treatment for their children.

Scharnhorst’s bill, HB 1311, is mirrored by another house bill, HB 1341, sponsored by Rep. Jason Grill.

Last year, the Senate passed legislation that would have required coverage of up to $55,000 annually for applied behavioral analysis for autistic children up to age 15.

The age is another matter of contention for proponents and opponents of the bill. Some say the coverage should go up to age 21; some opponents say the cut off should be 7.

House Speaker Ron Richard says this year, he’ll get it on the calendar early and make the legislation a priority.