In 2010, the Missouri Legislature passed a bill requiring insurance companies to cover therapies for the state’s autistic children. A measure passed this year expands that policy by mandating insurers to include physical, occupational and speech therapies for Missouri’s physically and developmentally disabled kids up to age 18. The move will make the Show-Me State among three states in the nation to have a therapy requirement for all children with such challenges.
The bipartisan bill, sponsored by State Representative Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, was attached to a healthcare bill with several other components. It was signed into law this month by Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, and takes effect with 2020 insurance plans.
Robyn Schelp, of central Missouri’s Columbia, has been a leading advocate of the law because her 11-year-old son, Nathan, is developmentally challenged.
“It’s not going to impact him that much anymore like it would have ten years ago, but it needs to be done for all kiddos,” says Schelp. “This is not about Nathan. It’s not about Will. It’s not about the kids that are walking the halls. It’s about all of Missouri’s children.”
Schelp’s pursuit for the law included leaving the language broad for all disabilities to get equal treatment.
“It is so important that all disabilities be included to do with anything in the disability world,” she says. “This (bill) includes disabilities like Down syndrome, which is pretty common, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, to the really rare genetic disorders. Or like my son, who has a genetic disorder that they can’t even figure out what it is.”
In the provision of Senate Bill 514, it says that insurance companies must be limited to a number of visits per calendar year, provided that additional visits shall be covered if approved and deemed medically necessary by the health benefit plan. Schelp is hopeful that more therapy providers will surface in Missouri, especially in schools and in rural areas where healthcare resources are especially limited.
“It (the law) impacts their families. It’s impacts their neighbors. It impacts their classrooms – their classmates. It impacts the community. When we start to get beyond ourselves, we can realize when everybody’s needs are met, everybody benefits,” Schelp says.
Now that Missouri will soon become the third state to expand coverage, Schelp does not plan to stop advocating for the cause.
“Our goal is to see nationwide change. We want this (requirement) to happen everywhere,” says Schelp. “It should have already happened everywhere, but now it’s time to make sure it happens everywhere throughout the country.”
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