The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 3, 2009

In Our View: Reform we can afford

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon said he is optimistic Missouri lawmakers will require insurers to cover therapy for autistic children.

Optimism aside, we agree that the therapy should be covered.

House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, has pledged to make it one of the first items for debate when the session convenes. Last year Richard held up the bill, telling the Globe that there was not enough consensus to take it out of committee. Apparently, sometime over the last year, lawmakers have come to realize that autism effects 1 in 100 children.

Paying for therapy treatment early in a child’s life gives those diagnosed with autism a chance at leading a full life. How do we know that? We’ve seen it firsthand at the Ozark Center for Autism here in Joplin.

Missouri’s legislation would require insurance plans regulated by the state to cover up to $72,000 annually of “applied behavioral analysis” for people under 21 with autism. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees could be exempt if they prove it would raise premiums by at least 5 percent.

The state insurance department expects the new mandate would increase premiums by less than 1 percent.

These are the type of health care reforms that, in our view, make sense. Treating a problem early on improves quality of life and saves millions of dollars that might have to be spent on rehabilitation later in life.

Some legislators, of course, will argue against this bill. We would invite them to spend a day at the Ozark Center for Autism.

We think it would change their minds.

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