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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Insurance Mandate: Missouri and Minnesota

Missouri is poised to become the 20th state to require insurers to cover treatment for autism under a bill the Legislature passed and sent to Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday.

The measure, a compromise between activists and insurers, would require state-regulated insurance companies to cover up to $40,000 a year in therapies for children with autism, up to age 18. The cap would be adjusted for inflation every three years.

"Honestly, we're thrilled with the bill," said Lorri Unumb, senior policy adviser and counsel for Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group. She called the coverage "as expansive as a state bill can be."

But advocates said their job is not done.

The bill covers only state-regulated insurance plans, which make up about 40 percent of the insurance market. Larger companies' plans often are self-funded, which puts them under federal regulation and exempt from the state mandate.

A Rochester lawmaker's three-year quest to pass a bill requiring insurance companies to cover treatment for children with autism has hit a major roadblock.

A House-Senate conference committee recently stripped Rep. Kim Norton's language out of a larger Health and Human Services bill. The Rochester Democrat had fought hard to got the insurance mandate into the House version of the bill, but Senate members refused to accept it.

"I am just really, really disappointed that the Senate is not willing to stand by families," Norton said.