On December 31, 2010 a new law took effect in Missouri requiring insurers in the state to cover the cost of autism treatments, relieving thousands of families of some of the deep financial burden of providing for their special needs children.
Governor Jay Nixon said of the new law, “It’s vitally important to thousands of families and one of the most important things I’ll ever do.” The statute compels insurers to cover $40,000 a year of “applied behavioral analysis” for children up to age 18, with a provision for the cap to be raised every three years to keep up with inflation.
The term “autism” addresses a range of neurological disorders currently affecting 1 out of 110 children in this country. Autistic children often have behavioral and communication issues that adversely affect their social skills. Many parents say that the intensive therapy covered by the new insurance law returns dramatic improvements.
The mandate, however, will cover only a quarter of the state’s population, primarily those receiving insurance from small to medium-sized employers. Large employers who insure themselves fall under federal regulation. People with individual policies will have the option to buy autism coverage.
Even with these limitations, however, the law has been hailed by autism activist groups as an important step forward for people who have long fought insurance companies to receive benefits to deal with the challenging effects of the condition.