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Lawmakers vote to have insurance plans cover therapies for kids with disabilities

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Insurance companies will now be required to cover therapies for children with mental and developmental disabilities.

On Friday, the General Assembly truly agreed and finally passed HB 399, championed by Rep. Chuck Basye and Sen. Denny Hoskins.

The bill looked to complete an issue that was partially addressed in 2010 when lawmakers voted to require insurance policies to cover therapies for children with autism. The measure expands the existing autism mandate to cover other developmental disabilities.  

“Passing HB399 today is monumental for thousands of Missouri children with developmental disabilities outside the autism spectrum. This legislation will allow these kids to receive much-needed, consistent therapy,” Basye told the Missouri Times. “Molly Myers’ young son Will was born missing part of his brain. Molly said during a hearing for HB399 ‘If there was a pill to cure Will, that would be awesome, but that isn’t available. Therapy is medicine!’ I couldn’t agree more.”

“This is a great win to help kids get the therapy they need so they have a better chance of living independent adult lives. I was glad to help Rep. Bayse and MODE get this bill passed,” Hoskins told the Missouri Times.

The bill adds therapeutic care for developmental and physical disabilities, as such terms are defined in the act, to the insurance coverage mandate for autism spectrum disorders effective January 1, 2020.

Providers would have the ability to limit the number of therapeutic care visits per year for the expanded disabilities. The therapies would only be covered if approved and deemed medically necessary by the health benefit plan.

As part of a compromise, the legislation would repeal the requirement that the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions, and Professional Registration submit annual reports to the legislature and require health carriers to supply certain diagnosis and coverage information for the report.

Expanding coverage to include physical and developmental disabilities is projected to increase the cost of insurance plans between $0.39 to $0.51 per member per month. The $0.51 projection is based on the 2018 cost to cover therapies for children with autism. Since the expanded legislation wouldn’t cover all of the same therapies, $0.39 reflects the cost of what would be covered, Robyn Schelp previously told the Missouri Times.

Schelp’s 11-year-old son is an example of just how important and beneficial therapy is for those with developmental disabilities.

Nathan has an unknown genetic disorder, and the family relocated from rural Missouri to Columbia in order to access the therapies he needs at a discounted rate and enroll in programs that will pay for them.

“The therapies for these kids are like medicine for someone else. This is what helps them, and they couldn’t get it,” Schelp previously said.

Now the bill changing that is being sent to the governor’s desk.