Bills to cover autism treatments stalled in the Missouri legislature.
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Bills to cover autism treatments stalled in the Missouri legislature.

Date: April 14, 2009
By: Chance Seales
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 357

Intro: Despite a variety of bills and pleas from families, the Missouri legislature has blocked initiatives to cover autism treatments.

Chance Seales (SEALS) reports from Jefferson City.

OutCue: SOC

Molly Schad is the mother to 8 year-old Harry.

After years of fighting with insurance companies to get his behavioral treatment covered, she brought her fight to the Missouri Capitol.

The problem is that Harry has autism...a disorder treated by Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA...a treatment not covered by most insurance companies. 

They say it's educational, not medical, and should be covered by the state. 

Molly was just one of several parents who made weekly trips to Jefferson City this session, telling lawmakers her family is in dire financial straits after repeated denials from United Health Care and spending more than $115 thousand dollars of their own money.

Actuality:  SCHAD1.WAV
Run Time: 00:09
Description: "We have no savings for our children.  We have no college fund.  We have no savings for emergencies.  We've borrowed from parents."

Schad isn't the only one outraged by insurance companies' failure to pay.

Democratic Rep. Sara Lampe of Springfield introduced several bills this session requiring insurance companies to cover ABA treatment. 

However, her bill and many others were blocked in committees.

She says children miss out on ABA treatment, and teachers are left to work without vital autism training.

Actuality:  LAMPE2.WAV
Run Time: 00:14
Description: "It is unconscionable for us to expect classroom teachers to respond to the needs of children who are severe.  And in this case autistic spectrum disorder children that may very well be severe, when they do not have the training or the education to be able to respond."      

Kristen Blanchard is the communication director for Republican House Speaker, Ron Richard and says he decided to block the autism bills in favor of other health measures, saying they lacked support.

Actuality:  BLANCH3.WAV
Run Time: 00:08
Description: "The speaker saw that there was no consensus and no one could come together and decide that this was the best way to move."

Supporters of autism coverage say Richard received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from insurance and health care companies and question if that played a role in his decision.

Blanchard says that's not the case.

Actuality:  BLANCH2.WAV
Run Time: 00:05
Description: "Certainly not money from lobbyists...not on this.  Especially on such a sensitive and important issue."

In the meantime, Molly Schad says she'll continue to push for insurance coverage for Harry and other autistic children to get a fair chance.

Actuality:  SCHAD2.WAV
Run Time: 00:12
Description: "I want Harry to be independent and a taxpayer, and to be able to hold a job that has medical insurance. I don't want him to be on their Medicare program and living in an institute." 

From the state Capitol, I'm Chance Seales.