Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, filed a handwritten amendment to remove a provision that would exempt Medicaid from the mandate. Medicaid -- called MO HealthNet by the state -- provides health care to the state's low income citizens.
"I'm appalled that we would not insure that the children of the working poor families in Missouri don't get this," Bray said.
Sen. Rita Days, D-St. Louis County, echoed Bray's sentiments.
"I'm sensing a class situation here, and I don't want to sense that," Days said. "This is about making sure that each child who can benefit from this treatment -- whether they are rich, whether they have insurance, or whether they are poor -- have access to this coverage."
Other senators, however, said Bray's amendment would make the bill -- already estimated to cost state General Revenue $7.2 million in the first full year -- too costly.
Majority Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, asked about the bill's price tag with the amendment. Bray, having just filed the amendment, did not have an answer.
With the state already facing a tight budget, some senators had already voiced concern for the bill's cost without the amendment.
Passing Bray's amendment would kill the bill, Engler said.
A pair of House bills for similar autism coverage mandate are currently sitting in committee. No action has been taken since a committee hearing last month.
Last year, a similar bill easily passed the Senate but the House measure died after House leadership blocked a vote. Critics had warned the measure would drive up the cost of private health insurance and discourage small businesses from offering health insurance for their employees.
A provision in this year's bill in the Senate would provide an exemption for small employers from the autism coverage requirement if it raised insurance policy costs by at least 5 percent.
Gov. Jay Nixon mentioned support for a bill mandating autism coverage in his State of the State address and House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, has also voiced support for some type of mandated coverage.