Sunday, January 2, 2011

Several thousand children become eligible for insurance coverage of their autism therapies under new Missouri law

From The AP:

Several thousand children will become eligible for insurance coverage of their autism therapies as a Missouri law took effect Jan. 1.

And starting today in Kansas, law enforcement officers can begin handing out $60 tickets to anyone they catch texting while driving. Up to now, only warnings have been issued.

The Kansas law also bans instant messages and e-mails while driving but makes exceptions for reading emergency, traffic and weather-related alerts and to report a crime.

A Highway Patrol official said that officers can easily distinguish texting from calling because someone making a phone call looks at the phone for only a few seconds, while texting requires looking at the phone for much longer.

Though limited, Missouri’s insurance mandate is among the state’s most prominent new laws taking effect with the new year. Lawmakers set a 2011 start date to coincide with the renewal period for many insurance policies.

“It’s vitally important to thousands of families and one of the most important things that I’ll ever do,” Gov. Jay Nixon said.

Autism is a broad term used to describe a spectrum of neurological disorders that affect about 1 out of 110 children in the United States, federal health officials said. Children with autism often have problems with communication, behavior and social skills.

Missouri’s new law requires insurers to cover $40,000 a year of “applied behavioral analysis” for children through age 18, and the cap could rise with inflation every three years. Many parents credit the intensive therapy with producing dramatic improvements.

But the mandate covers only about one-fourth of Missouri’s population — mainly those receiving health insurance from small- to medium-sized employers. Large employers that insure themselves are federally regulated. And people with individual policies will have an option to buy autism coverage.