Missouri now mandating therapy coverage for children with development disabilities

Law expanded from autism spectrum to other developmental disabilities

Megan Lynch
July 18, 2019 - 5:00 am

JEFFERSON CITY (KMOX) — A new law in Missouri expands coverage of therapies for children with developmental disabilities.

For nearly a decade, the state has required insurance coverage for therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder, but Robyn Schelp says that left out an equal number of children with other disabilities such as Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy.

Schelp is the President of Missouri Disability Empowerment and co-founded the group to advocate for children like her 11-year-old son Nathan, who has a genetic disorder.

Nathan walked the halls of the Missouri General Assembly with his mom the last three years. In that time he had started speech therapy.

"The difference it made in his life is huge," Schelp said. "And that was really neat, the legislators were able to see this is what happens, just in two and a half years this child went from saying two- and three-word sentences and being very shy and uncomfortable, not really sure of how to communicate and his needs and wants, to being very confident and having just endless speech."

Schelp told KMOX she believes this will actually produce long-term health care cost savings. 

"My son needs physical therapy and we do it to prevent orthopedic surgery later on," Schelp said. "Much cheaper just to do the therapies than to have these long-term surgeries that also require therapies after. Or a child might do speech therapy to prevent aspirating to learn how to swallow, which saves them from pneumonia and significant sicknesses."

The bill signed by the governor this month requires coverage for speech, physical and occupational therapies. As a compromise with insurance carriers, Schelp's group took out behavior therapy. 

The measure applies to fully-funded insurance plans, which she says means it still excludes a significant number of families covered by “self-funding” plans where an employer pays health claims from their own funds.

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