On June 10, at St. John’s Mercy Children’s Hospital in St. Louis – standing with families, medical professionals, legislators and others – Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law a requirement that health insurance provide coverage for the most effective known treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Dr. John Mantovani, medical director of St. John’s Mercy Children’s Hospital and Child Development Center, and a member of the Missouri Commission for Autism Spectrum Disorders, welcomed the crowd of more than 100 people and introduced the governor. Dr. Mantovani and Ron Ashworth, Mercy Board Chair, were instrumental in helping develop the legislation.
House Bill 1311 ends the longstanding insurance company practice of denying coverage for medically necessary, evidence-based Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), a therapy considered to be a vital tool in creating better outcomes for children with autism or related disorders. For an individual child, ABA therapy can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars annually. Without insurance coverage, families have been forced to take drastic measures, such as selling a home, spending their savings, borrowing from family members or going deep into debt, to afford these services.
“This new law will make Missouri a national leader in the diagnosis and treatment of autism, and it will lift a tremendous burden from thousands of families across our state,” Gov. Nixon said. “With the bill I’m signing today, parents of children with autism – who have faithfully paid their insurance premiums – will finally get the coverage they are entitled to. The law will ensure that ABA therapy is covered and that families will not get kicked off their insurance plans or otherwise limited in their insurance options because they have a child with autism.”
“My daughter was diagnosed with ASD when she turned three. Even with comprehensive health insurance, her treatments were not covered because she has autism. We are lucky because we are able to afford ABA therapy at St. John’s Mercy Child Development Center. Last year when she was diagnosed, she didn’t speak or interact with her brother or sisters. In the year since her diagnosis, we have our daughter back. When we first learned of her diagnosis, we were fearful for her future. Now we are hopeful. I want to thank all those involved in passing this bill and think it brings hope to so many families in Missouri.”