Historic legislation celebrated at the Thompson Center
Thursday, June 10, 2010 will forever be remembered as the day “autism counted” by families who have struggled to provide treatment for their children with the disorder. Governor Jay Nixon was joined by State Representatives Jason Grill, Jeannie Riddle, Mary Still, Chris Kelly and Jeff Grisamore and more than eight families who have children with autism as they celebrated the passing of House Bill 1311 into law at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.
“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.”
The bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2011, includes the four essential elements Gov. Nixon outlined before the 2010 legislative session began. Under the law, health insurance companies:
- Must cover the diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders;
- Must specifically cover Applied Behavior Analysis;
- May not limit the number of visits by a child for ABA therapy; and
- May not refuse to renew or otherwise restrict coverage for a policyholder simply because a dependent is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Tammy Maasen, mother of 5-year-old Tiara, spoke at the press conference expressing her gratitude to the Governor, legislators and other families who helped make the law possible. With tears in her eyes she recounted the many hours of therapy that Tiara experienced.
“At 2 years old, Tiara was nonverbal and was considered a danger to herself and others because of her intense negative behaviors.” Maasen said, her voice choking with emotion. “The therapy provided by the EIBI program has helped her climb many mountains. Today Tiara speaks in small sentences. She initiates conversation, has joint attention, and enjoys singing, dancing and playing with toys. She is an amazing child in spite of all the difficulties she faces.”
Maasen also took time at the podium to express her gratitude to her mother, Helen Eckelberry, who cares for Tiara during the day and to her sons Tristen, 14 and Tanner,10, who have learned how to use ABA techniques to help their sister. “ They are an amazing part of Tiara’s life.” Maasen said of her family. “ I know that Tiara was put here for a reason.”
In addition to Massen’s comments about the importance of the new law, Bill Thompson, founder of the Thompson Foundation for Autism, spoke about its impact on families.
“This is good legislation. This is a law that should exist to help people who can’t always help themselves.”
Following Thompson’s speech, State Representatives Grill, Still, Riddle and Grisamore shared their excitement about seeing the bill finally pass into law.
"This is important legislation and a step forward,” said Rep. Jeanie Riddle, “but it’s only the beginning!”
With smiles on their faces several of the families and children present flanked the Governor as he signed the legislation.
"It’s a joyous day,” said audience member Paula Carter. “It means that autism counts.”
To learn more about the autism insurance bill visit the Missouri Department of Insurance website FAQ page.