Scrambling to convince the public that he's actually interested in substantive autism insurance legislation, Speaker Ron Richard tried to get a jump on the issue today:
Richard, a Republican, today touted a bill [HB 1311] filed by Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis, in a phone conference call that was hastily announced. Richard’s spokeswoman said the bill will get a quick committee hearing.
Richard's newfound interest in the subject is more than a little suspect, of course given his role in killing legislation supported by a broad bipartisan majority last session. Richard has been called out by members of both parties for his work on behalf of insurance companies instead of struggling families.
Rupp said informal polling revealed the bill had 110 votes in the House, more than enough for passage. He said he thought Speaker of the House Ron Richard and other House leaders blocked the bill.
"We had overwhelming support from rank-and-file members, but key House leadership did not want it to come to fruition," Rupp said.
[Schmitt] explained that in 2009, the autism bill was voted out of the Senate by a 29-2 vote. However, it was bottled up in a House committee and never made it onto the floor for a vote.
According to Schmitt, insurance lobbyists can take credit for stopping progress on the bill in 2009. He said that doesn't have to happen in 2010, and he made that point with Gov. Jay Nixon after the 2009 session ended.
"The insurance industry has blocked autism from being covered in the past," said Schmitt. "They are a special interest group that has argued about costs, but I think the insurance industry is starting to take a new look at the reality of autism. Treatment is an investment that saves costs down the road."
It's too bad Richard feels the need to have his own competing proposal when a biapartisan coalition already exists to get a bill passed. Gov. Nixon, Sen. Rupp, Sen. Schmitt and Rep. Jeff Grisamore (R-Lee's Summit) will be detailing their join proposal tomorrow.