Lawmakers push to expand insurance coverage for children

Treatments for many disabilities not covered

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Insurance policies cover therapy for about half of children with disabilities.

Insurance companies in Missouri are not required to cover therapies for children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, fragile X  syndrome and many others.

However, two area lawmakers have pre-filed legislation in the Missouri General Assembly to require insurance companies to cover more developmental conditions. 

Senate Bill 45 would extend insurance to cover therapies for all children with disabilities.

In 2010, Missouri began requiring insurance companies to cover therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders, which make up about 50 percent of children with disabilities in the state, state Sen. Denny Hoskins said in a news release about his bill to expand coverage.

Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, pre-filed SB45 on Saturday and Rep. Chuck Bayse, R-Rocheport, plans to file a similar bill in the House.

Under the bill insurance would be required to cover therapeutic care up to $40,000 per year for children through 18 years old. Therapies would include physical, occupational, speech and applied behavior analysis.

Missouri Disability Empowerment President Robyn Schelp said one therapy session can cost more than $100, and depending on the disability, some children might need up to four sessions per week.

Schelp's 11-year-old son has a developmental disability. The Columbia mom said she has seen firsthand how important therapy is.

Most people expect children to start walking and talking at a certain age without therapy. However, Schelp said children with disabilities need help learning basic skills.

"Even things like swallowing, things you absolutely must have to survive," she said.

Some lawmakers worry about the cost increase to insurance companies the bill could create, but Schelp said the cost is low.

"The per member, per month cost is less than $1 to add," she said.

The long-term positive impact of therapy for children with disabilities is great, Schelp said.

"We want them to get the skills they need so they can go to the work force and live independently instead of having to go to an adult daycare or having to live with significant supports," she said.

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