Legislation extending autism insurance coverage to children passed the Senate floor on Thursday despite heated opposition by a handful of Tea Party conservatives.
Senate Bill 2581 won the vote by 39-6. It requires health insurance policies to offer coverage for autism treatment like Applied Behavior Analysis for children ages 2-8. It also regulates the practice of ABA therapy and requires providers obtain state licenses.
Some, though, argued the state shouldn't tell private insurers what to cover and questioned why autism should get special recognition. Led by state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, opponents took turns grilling the bill's main sponsor for roughly a half hour.
They asked why the state shouldn't also mandate health insurers cover obesity, diabetes and Attention Deficit Disorder. They asked why not let the free market decide for itself what to cover. And they likened the measure to Obamacare.
"This is totally getting out of hand," said state Sen. Rita Parks, R-Corinth, who introduced the bill on the floor, after a round of such questions.
McDaniel said he cares about children with autism and agreed the state should do something, but said SB 2581 takes the wrong approach.
State Sen. Will Longwitz, R-Madison, wasn't buying it.
"I would ask you today if we're going to have an ideological battle," he said, "let's not do it at the expense of children with autism."