Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst (R-Manchester) has introduced a bill that would impose a “mandate of insurance coverage for all symptoms and care of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” according to his most recent Capitol Report. HB 357 comes after Rep. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield) and Rep. Jeff Grisamore (R-Lee’s Summit) have filed similar bills this session. Sen. Scott Rupp (R-St. Charles County) has also filed a bill in the senate.
What are the differences between these bills, and which ones will move? Will we see the one that does move incorporate elements of the others?
I got to know Dwight when I worked on his first special election to the legislature, and we’ve been friends since. But I must say I’m disappointed he is choosing this particular route to help families with autism (I give major credit, however, for his special needs scholarship bill last year). No doubt he feels strongly about the issue, as his grandson, who had autism, passed away a couple years ago from health related complications. But no matter the personal, emotional stories involved, we can’t avoid the fact that bills like this are forms of regulation that undermine the free nature of the marketplace and increase end costs for consumers.
As the rate of autism has increased and many families affected choose to organize politically and lobby for government assistance, the political cause of autism is increasingly popular. The insurance industry and free market groups haven’t gone away; then there’s the natural legislative inertia, and a host of other issues to compete with this session for attention. We’ll see what the autism lobby can do with these bills this session…