A growing health problem in Missouri has prompted Republicans and Democrats to reach across the aisle to propose legislation that would mandate health insurance coverage for those suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder. Rep. Jeff Grisamore called it “an emerging civil rights issue” in a news conference Tuesday. Republican Rep. Grisamore of Lee’s Summit was joined by Democrat Rep. Sam Page and Republican Senator Luann Ridgeway at the conference, all of whom have sponsored legislation to get coverage for those diagnosed with Autism. Autism is one of the twelve most prominent neurological disorders, all of which are covered by health insurance, except Autism.
“Out of the twelve major neurological disorders; dramatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease,” said Rep. Page, “Autism Spectrum Disorder is the only one that’s not covered by insurance, and it stands out, and it has a huge impact on families in Missouri.”
The bills these legislators have proposed mimic legislation passed in other states, which have all mandated health insurance coverage for those suffering from Autism. Page said he believes this is necessary in Missouri because it is a “competitive disadvantage” for the insurance industry to offer benefits which would increase premiums. The proposed mandate would increase premiums universally, even for those who don’t suffer from Autism, but Grisamore believes it is a small price to pay.
“In terms of those of us that are not with a child with Autism, it’s going to mean a cost increase in premiums of perhaps one half of one percent to one percent,” said Grisamore, “For the families that do benefit from that, to receive the health care services and coverage… it is going to be a whole new world of opportunity for these children and these families, and it is so critical that we end the discrimination against people with Autism and their families.”
Several mothers of children diagnosed with Autism, who had just testified in their committee hearings, joined Grisamore and Page at the conference. Grisamore believes that if the legislators of Missouri would listen to the stories of these mothers, none of them would vote against his legislation.
[Video runtime 5:18 – edited & filmed by Jon Allison]