Senate approves autism coverage requirement

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Missouri Senate has voted 26-6 to require some health insurance plans to cover treatment for autism.

The bill would require group insurance policies regulated by the state to provide up to $55,000 annually for behavioral treatment until age 21. The "applied behavioral analysis" is an intensive and costly therapy that some parents say produces dramatic improvements in their autistic children.

The Senate version of the bill now goes to the House.

"Today's bipartisan vote by the Senate is one more significant step forward for children with autism, Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement. This bill would ensure that Missouri children and families have access to vital treatments and therapies shown to make a major and lasting difference in their lives. Senators from both sides of the aisle deserve credit for their hard work on this issue. I look forward to working with members of the House of Representatives to ensure the House gives the same overwhelming bipartisan support it gave a similar autism bill on Feb. 18."

Similar legislation approved in the House in February would require coverage of up to $36,000 annually until age 18.

The two chambers must agree on the same version before the measure can go to the governor.