Thursday, February 28, 2008

Families keeping hope alive for autism insurance bill

February 28, 2008
By John GreinerCapitol Bureau

Wayne Rohde and his wife, Robyne, choked back tears as they spoke Tuesday about families coping with autistic children and not being able to get health insurance coverage.

The Rohdes, of Edmond, were among several families with autistic children who went to the state Capitol to talk about fighting for Sen. Jay Paul Gumm's bill to mandate insurance coverage for autism.

Because he lacked the votes for passage, Gumm didn't have the bill, Senate Bill 1537, heard in committee. But he plans to attach amendments on autism to other bills on the Senate floor.
The legislation is called "Nick's law” after the Rohdes' 10-year-old son.

Our inspiration
Wayne Rohde's emotions over the issue caused him to pause briefly as he thanked "the children for being our inspiration and being our motivation for getting this done.”

Later, his wife, her voice breaking, talked briefly.

"It's so important to these children to have this law in the state. We have no place else to turn,” she said.

Wayne Rohde said a child is diagnosed with autism every 20 minutes. He said autism is not covered by health insurance, adding, "Why is there discrimination and why is there exclusion for autism diagnosis?”

Another Edmond parent, Rodney Miller, talked about dealing with his son's autism.
His family is fortunate that it can borrow money and probably will end up $300,000 in debt to get treatment for his son, he said.

"We hear an awful lot in this building about family values. I don't believe you have the right to talk about family values unless you support policies that value families like this,” the Durant Democrat said. "This is why we were sent here.”

Senators, Families of Autistic Children Press for Autism Coverage at State Capitol

Surrounded by parents and their autistic children, Sen. Jay Paul Gumm and Sen. Mary Easley discuss discuss legislative efforts to require health insurance policies to cover autism related diagnosis and treatment at a press conference Tuesday at the State Capitol.

Autism afflicts one in every 150 children, yet there is no requirement that diagnosis and treatment be covered by Oklahoma health insurance policies.

Tuesday, a group of Oklahoma families joined Senator Jay Paul Gumm at a State Capitol news conference to promote “Nick’s Law.” The proposal, initially contained in Senate Bill 1537, would require health insurance policies cover diagnosis, treatment and therapy for autism spectrum disorders. Currently, at least 17 states – including Texas – have similar mandates.

“These families and children face challenges that – God willing – most of us never will face,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “I believe it is morally wrong and financially irresponsible to leave these children and their families behind.

“If insurance companies excluded from coverage maladies like broken bones or respiratory problems, Oklahoma families would be storming the Capitol demanding action. Autism is as great a health challenge as any family might face – and it should be covered by health insurance.”

Autism is a bio-neurological disability that generally appears before the age of 3. Individuals with autism often have difficulties in communication, as well as social interaction. They also suffer from numerous physical ailments including allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, and sleeping disorders.

SB 1537 was denied a hearing in the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee. At the news conference, Gumm announced that while that bill is dead, the effort to pass Nick’s Law is only just beginning.

“Parents of autistic children struggle every day to improve their children’s lives,” he said. “We owe it to these parents and their children to fight just as hard as they do. That is why Nick’s Law is being filed as a floor amendment on a series of bills; these families will not be ignored and we will have this discussion in the Senate.”

Wayne Rohde is the father of 10-year-old Nick – inspiration for the bill. He said families that have been denied autism coverage are struggling financially and, with limited healthcare options available, at a loss for help.

“Nick’s Law simply says that parents who pay more than $1,000 per month in health insurance premiums can count on that insurance to help with treatments,” he said. “The treatments cost as much as $3,000 a month. We aren’t looking for a hand out, but rather a hand up.”

Gumm said the mandate is a good investment for taxpayers. “Setting aside for a moment the fact that this mandate would change lives for the better, it also will save taxpayers money,” he said. “Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to ensure autistic children have a chance of reaching their full potential and not become wards of the state.”

Rohde said the fallout for families facing autism is far reaching. “Divorce rates are higher among families with autistic children,” he explained. “Bankruptcy rates are higher, and the overall family unit is stretched thin trying to find the answers to help their children lead the most normal and productive life possible.”

Gumm concluded by noting that the words “family values” are thrown around the Capitol often. “I do not believe you can talk about ‘family values’ unless you support policies that value families,” he said. “The fight for Nick’s Law comes down to this question: Do we give these children a chance to become everything God intends for them to be?

“If every legislator who says they stand for ‘family values’ really stands for these families, then that answer should be a resounding ‘yes’.”

For more information contact:
Senator Gumm's Office: (405) 521-5586

Monday, February 25, 2008

Senator Gumm announces Press Conference

The State of Oklahoma


Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties

February 25, 2008


Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm

State Capitol: (405) 521-5586

Durant: (580) 924-2221

Mobile: (580) 920-6990

Senator, Families with Autistic Children
Schedule Capitol News Conference

– Several families with autistic children will join Senator Jay Paul Gumm for a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008 at 10 a.m. The news conference will be in Room 419-C of the State Capitol.

Senator Gumm and the parents will discuss legislative efforts to require health insurance policies to cover autism related diagnosis and treatment. Gumm, D-Durant, was author of SB 1537, also known as “Nick’s Law”; that measure was not heard in the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee. Among the parents joining Senator Gumm will be Wayne Rohde, the father of Nick Rohde, the inspiration for “Nick’s Law.” Mr. Rohde and other parents will be available to discuss the challenges faced by families with autistic children.

The news conference also will be broadcast live on the Internet at; you can reach the streaming video by clicking on the link “Senate Audio-Video, 419-C”.

For more information, please contact Senator Gumm at the above contacts or Amber England at (405) 521-5695, or by email at

Nick's Law Update Feb 25, 2008

Nick’s Law is alive and well!

Senators Gumm and Anderson decided on Thursday, Feb 21st, not to present SB 1537 – Nick’s Law - in the Senate Insurance Committee, for fear that it would be voted down. Senate rules prohibit the languageof any bills that were voted down in committee from being used in other bills for the rest of the year. The deadline to hear Senate bills in committee was Thursday, so technically, SB 1537 is dead.

But our Senate authors have vowed to find other germaine bills in which to insert the languagecontained in SB 1537. So Nick’s Law will now be sent to the entire bodyof the Senate as an amendment on another insurance bill. The senators’ decision givesthe language of Nick’s Law several more options for passage out of theSenate. The actual bill or bills that Nick’s Law will be amended into will be determined in the next several days. We have 3 weeks to vote the bill out of the Senate (deadline – March 13th).

Nick’s Law in the House, HB2459 by Rep. Colby Schwartz is still alive as well. Currently, it awaitsa hearing in the House Economic Development Committee. We have until March 6th to have Nick’s Law reported out of this committee.

We are still planning on the next Parent’s Day at the Capitol for Tuesday, March 4th. We will be concentrating on the House. It is appearing that our first trip created a lot of interest and opened the eyes of a lot of legislators. We need to keep up the pressure on our your legislator. Also remind your neighbors and friends to do the same.

More information to be announced later this week as the specifics are determined.

Thank You
Nick’s Law Steering Committee

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bill would help students with autism

Feb 24, 2008
By Wendy K. Kleinman
Staff Writer, The Oklahoman

Jaymee Muns is the only student in her classroom; the 11-year-old has both a teacher and an aide. She has been known to become violent, even breaking her aide's nose once, because she's learned she can use her behavior to put learning on hold. Her mother says she is afraid middle school will be a nightmare.

Joy Lauffenburger, 15, makes good grades. She has had a personal aide in school since the second grade but is being weaned away so she can become more independent. Her mother said Joy has an advantage because she entered the school system before the influx of students with similar needs.

Jaymee and Joy have autism. Jaymee has rarely been in a regular education classroom; that is all Joy has ever known. One is regressing; the other is thriving. Parents of the students said including the children in regular classrooms and giving support and training to regular education teachers would benefit children with spectrum disorders like autism.

That's the goal of a bill (SB 1686) filed by Sen. Mary Easley, D-Tulsa, that calls for an emphasis to be placed on autism in schools. About 2,000 of the state's 95,000 students receiving special education services have autism, said Misty Kimbrough, assistant state superintendent of special education services.

Battle for inclusion
Jaymee started school in Putnam City, moved to Moore and now is in Stillwater.
"My goal was, Jaymee needs to be in kindergarten with all the other kids,” Shawna Muns said. At the time, she told herself, "I don't see why she can't. She can repeat every song she's ever heard; certainly she can repeat her ABCs,” she said. "I have seen children who are included; as long as they are appropriately supporting the children, the children flourish,” Muns said.
Even within her family, Jaymee has been an inspiration: She inspired her mother to pursue a doctorate in psychology, her 19-year-old sister Ashlee to work toward becoming a clinical psychologist and her 16-year-old brother Kevin, already a college student, to set his sights on neurology.

When asked to comment on Jaymee's situation, Stillwater special education director Renee Holladay said the district cannot talk about individual students. She said accommodations for students with special needs are determined on an individual basis through a team process involving a parent, administrator, special education teacher and regular teacher.

In Edmond, Joy fits the profile of a student who does well when included in regular education classes. Joy's aide no longer helps her with academic work, just social skills. Still, her mother, Melinda Lauffenburger, said the road has been rough. "I think the thing that most parents tell me is we don't know what's available and what isn't, and then the thing that teachers tell me is there's so much IEP (individualized education plan) paperwork that they don't have time to think creatively. The process is a lot more of a legal battleground, and the kids get lost in that,” said Lauffenburger, who is the director of both the Edmond and Oklahoma Family Center for Autism.

What can be done
Lauffenburger said there are five things children with autism have in common: issues with communication, social interaction, behavior, organization and sensory stimulation. The idea behind Easley's bill is to address those issues by putting an emphasis on training for teachers of prekindergarten through third-grade students so they learn to recognize symptoms and provide positive support for students with autism, said Kimbrough, the state official.

Easley could not be reached for comment, but Kimbrough said people in her office had talked with the senator about the bill. Rene Daman, director of the Oklahoma Autism Network, said there is a gap in training for regular education teachers — as well as other school personnel ranging from principals to cafeteria workers.

"In the world of autism, there's not a one-size-fits-all treatment approach, and so people will seek different treatments based on the individual needs of their child, based on the individual preferences of the family, and different districts have professionals that have training in different areas,” Daman said. Daman has been a therapist for children with various disabilities for about 15 years. Providing more training will become even more important as new students enter public schools because one in every 150 babies now is born with autism, she said.

Existing help
The State Department of Education has provided training about autism since the early 1990s, Kimbrough said. Most of the teachers who attend the training are special education teachers, she said, although she added that there is always a waiting list for the classes. The department also provides support through programs like Project PEAK at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, she said.

In addition, the state developed a pilot program in Putnam City this year where infants and toddlers with spectrum disorders spend the day with typically developing peers, Kimbrough said. "For some kids, the right services in the early years can make the difference in their long-term outcome, and our state cannot afford to not seize that opportunity because parents will die, and they will become wards of the state,” Lauffenburger said.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Senate Committee passes Steffanie's Law

Note to readers: Passage of Steffanie's Law is very good news for Nick's Law.

Associated Press and

A state Senate committee has passed a bill requiring insurance companies to pay for routine care of patients involved in clinical trials.

Steffanie's Law was passed on Thursday in the Health and Human Resources Committee five to two, after the committee heard from Monty Collings, the father of the 18-year-old for whom the bill was named.

Steffanie Collings, a young brain cancer patient, was hit with $400,000 in medical bills after a private insurance carrier stopped paying her routine healthcare costs. After Steffanie went through a bone marrow procedure in a clinical trial, Collings' insurance company refused to pay routine bills for doctor's visits, blood tests and other procedures needed in her fight against cancer.

Sen. Andrew Rice, the bill's author, said it was a matter of fairness. He said Medicaid and Medicare patients can go through clinical trials and still have their routine care compensated.

Nick's Law is alive and well!

It is official. We are heading with Plan B for Nick's Law in the Oklahoma Senate.

Announcement with details to be made later today!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Senate Deadline Approaches

The deadline to hear Nick's Law in the Senate Insurance Committee is Thursday, Feb 21st. After the deadline has passed, the current senate legislation of Nick's Law will be pulled from committee and introduced later this session.

The committee appears to be tied 5-5 along party lines. Senate rules state any legislation that is introduced into committee and does not advance, then the bill and associated language can not be introduced later as an amendment.

Get ready for Plan B!!

There are several options that Senator Gumm will be exploring in the near future. We are very optimistic that Nick's Law will continue in the Senate.

In the House, the deadline to hear legislation in the committee is March 6th.

Please check back with us as we will be updating this site as developments are posted.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Insurance limits bill opposed

The Oklahoman, Sunday Feb 17, 2008

An Oklahoma City senator says a House bill limiting mandates on insurance companies is a "sellout” to special interests and a "stake in the heart” of people who often are victims of arbitrary insurance policy rules that deny them access to health care.

Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, referred to House Bill 3111, which passed the House of Representatives on Thursday. It would place restrictions on new health insurance mandates.

The bill would limit legislators from introducing and passing a bill mandating coverage unless it is introduced in an odd-numbered year. Legislators could act on it in an even-numbered year.

HB 3111's author is Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow. He told House members the measure is intended to attempt to reduce the price of health insurance.

Rice is the author of Senate Bill 1521, called "Steffanie's Law,” which is named after Steffanie Collings, a Noble teenager who has been battling brain cancer.

Rice's legislation would require insurance companies to continue coverage of routine medical care for critically ill patients who submit to clinical trials.

Friday, February 15, 2008

News 9 Interview

Click Here to view the video by Anchor/Reporter Melissa Maynarich

Fox 25 Interview with Nick

Click Here to view the video by Producer Phil Cross

Tulsa World Article " Insurance Bill stirs up dispute "

Tulsa World
By MICK HINTON World Capitol Bureau 2/15/2008

Insurance Bill stirs up dispute

It would restrict some medical legislation to biennial consideration.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Legislation to force insurance companies to pay for certain medical procedures could be considered by the Legislature only every other year, according to a controversial bill approved Thursday by the House. House Bill 3111 is needed to curb escalating insurance costs that are passed on to policyholders, said its author, Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow.
But Rep. Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City, said the bill would give lobbyists two years to kill bills that insurance companies don't like. Over the last few decades, lawmakers have passed 14 insurance coverage mandates, including prostate and breast cancer screening and care for severe mental illness. Democrats said such mandated coverage is saving money because screenings often detect medical problems that would be extremely costly if left untreated.
Peterson, chairman of the committee that hears insurance bills, said that if insurance companies were not faced with so many mandates, the state could start looking at ways to provide coverage for thousands of uninsured Oklahomans.
State Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said controlling mandates could help the state work with the insurance industry to move forward with providing minimal coverage to everyone.
Peterson said chambers of commerce and small business owners support his bill.
Inman said the people of Oklahoma are "left out of this equation." Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman tried to ask Peterson, during floor debate, whether he had any financial interests in insurance companies. Rep. Gus Blackwell, the presiding officer, stopped Collins because he said he was trying to impugn the character of a fellow lawmaker.
Peterson said later that he has not been in the insurance business for five years but had previously handled property and casualty insurance. House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, came to Peterson's defense during the speaker's weekly news conference. "This rationale that because someone has support from an industry prohibits them from running legislation, I don't understand that," Benge said. He said that if this were the case, lawmakers who are trial lawyers would not be able to vote on lawsuit reform. "That type of discussion detracts us from the real debate of the actual bill," Benge said.
Records filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission show that Peterson has links to a political action committee called "A Positive Solution," which has received contributions from insurance companies. In October, the Peterson-related PAC received $1,000 from the Blue Cross Employees PAC. Also in October, Bobbie Stem, a lobbyist for insurance companies, gave $500 to the PAC. Stem's partner, Bill Case, also gave a $500 contribution. Both donations fell well below the $5,000 legal limit. In December, Peterson received in his own campaign fund a $4,000 contribution from Bradford Phillips, whose family holds several insurance companies in trust. Stem is a lobbyist for two of Phillips' companies. However, Peterson returned the contribution after questions were raised about whether it had figured into legislation that had been heard by Peterson's committee.

Mick Hinton (405)

Legislatively mandated insurance coverage:
· Mammography screening
· Hospital coverage for 48 hours of maternity benefits for vaginal delivery and 96 hours for Caesarean delivery
· Annual obstetrical/gynecological examinations
· Breast cancer coverage if policy covers other kinds of cancer
· Prostate cancer screening
· Colorectal cancer coverage
· Coverage for wigs or other scalp prostheses for certain cancer patients of as much as $150
· Bone density testing
· Certain diabetes treatment
· Dental anesthesia coverage for certain minors
· Audiological services and hearing aids for children
· Severe mental illness
· Testing for certain children's physical and emotional disorders
· Child immunization coverage
By MICK HINTON World Capitol Bureau

Oklahoman Article " Bill Seeks Mandate Limits "

Fri February 15, 2008

By Michael McNutt
Capitol Bureau
The Oklahoman

House of Representatives members passed a bill Thursday that would place restrictions on new health insurance mandates, a move opponents say puts insurance companies' profits ahead of the medical needs of Oklahomans.
Rep. Ron Peterson, author of House Bill 3111, said his measure is intended to take a closer look at the cost of insurance mandates in an attempt to reduce the price of health insurance, which could offset price increases for Oklahoma insurance policy holders.
But opponents said the bill is bad for consumers.
"This bill essentially allows the insurance industry to kill future bills that would provide life-saving procedures to Oklahomans,” said Rep. Ryan Kiesel, D-Seminole.
"Our job isn't to look at profits ... our job is to look at people.”
A health insurance mandate is a requirement that an insurance company or health plan offer certain benefits.
Legislators in the past have passed laws requiring insurance companies to cover mammography screenings, diabetes treatments, prostate cancer screenings and other procedures.
Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman, said that if HB 3111 had been in place earlier, insurance companies would never have covered those procedures.
The measure passed 53 to 46, mostly along party lines. All Republicans except two — including Doug Cox of Grove, the only doctor in the chamber — voted for it. All Democrats voted against it. HB 3111 now goes to the Senate.
"I am confident that we will get the spirit of the bill enacted,” said Peterson, R-Broken Arrow. Small businesses and The State Chamber have expressed support for the proposal, he said.
The mandates are an extra cost to insurance companies and those costs are passed on to those with insurance policies, he said.
Kiesel and other Democrats said rising pharmaceutical costs and the cost of uninsured citizens dwarf mandate costs. "It is repugnant that an insurance company that takes your dollars won't cover an exam that can save your life,” Kiesel said.
‘Making smart decisions'
HB 3111 would require a cost-benefit analysis to be done. The organization or person requesting the covered health benefit — not legislative staff — would pay for the study's cost.
The study would give legislators the opportunity to rely more on information than emotions, Peterson said. "They're very hard to say no to,” Peterson said of requests for mandates. "This is about making smart decisions.”
The measure also would limit lawmakers from introducing and passing a bill mandating coverage unless the bill is introduced in an odd-numbered year, and then may be acted upon by legislators in an even numbered year.
"What this bill was all about was the insurance industry saying we want more time to be able to kill any mandate bill that comes down the pike,” said Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City.
Peterson said he was not asked by insurance companies to present the bill. He looked at what other states were doing, and borrowed language from an Arizona law.
Asked on the House floor why the cost of the study was placed on those asking for the mandate, Peterson said no one on the House staff was certified to perform the study and he didn't want to cause additional expenses for the state by having to hire additional staff.
Kiesel said the bill rewards insurance companies and punishes families who must pay the high cost of insurance. "We're not asking insurance companies to do something that's out of the ordinary,” he said. "We're asking them to do something that they should be doing already.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Parent Rally for Autism Treatment Bill

Parents rally for autism treatment bill

Feb 13, 2008 11:32 AM CST

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

Families rallied Tuesday at the state capitol in support of a bill that would require health insurance companies to cover autism therapies.
Senate Bill 1537, also called Nick's Law, has not been scheduled to be heard in committee yet. Parents like Eimile Hart visited their representatives to tell them about their situations.

Hart has 4-year-old twins who are autistic, Aidan and Sean.
"Our kids are sick kids," Hart said. "Recent research has come out saying that they have a physical illness. They have gastro intestinal problems, immunity problems, severe food allergies and such."

The Hart family has paid more than $86,000 out of pocket in the past 15 months to treat the spectrum disorder. "We have to see specialists," Hart said. "We have to get special labs done which aren't covered by insurance. I think we had $12,000 in labs that aren't covered."
Scott Martin (R-District 46) represents the district where the Harts live.

"If we can look into the eyes of the children and see what's going on here, I think we can get a better understanding and hopefully have a better appreciation for what not only the kids but also what the parents are having to go through," Martin said. "Maybe we can do something to help."

Autism affects one in 150 children, authorities said.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Health insurer's letter seeks to get coverage canceled

The Associated Press

Article Launched: 02/12/2008 01:18:25 AM PST

LOS ANGELES—Citing an effort to hold down costs, health insurance giant Blue Cross wants doctors in California to report conditions it could use to cancel new patients' medical coverage, it was reported Tuesday.

The state's largest for-profit health insurer is sending physicians copies of health insurance applications filled out by new patients, along with a letter advising them that the company has a right to drop members who fail to disclose "material medical history," the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site.

"Any condition not listed on the application that is discovered to be pre-existing should be reported to Blue Cross immediately," according to the letter obtained by the newspaper.

One of the conditions noted in the letter that could force a new patient to be dropped by Blue Cross—pre-existing pregnancies.

WellPoint Inc., the Indianapolis-based company that operates Blue Cross of California, said it was sending out the letters in an effort to keep costs at a minimum.

"Enrolling an applicant who did not disclose their true condition (and the condition is chronic or acute), will quickly drive increased utilization of services, which drives up costs for all members," WellPoint spokeswoman Shannon Troughton said in an e-mail to the newspaper.

"Blue Cross feels it is our responsibility to assure all records are accurate and up to date for HMO providers," she said. "We send these letters to identify members early on in the process who may not have been honest in their application."

Troughton added doctors are not required, but rather can volunteer, patients' information to Blue Cross.

Doctors were unhappy about the letter, warning that some patients might hide any medical history that could affect their prospects of receiving health insurance.

"We're outraged that they are asking doctors to violate the sacred trust of patients to rat them out for medical information that patients would expect their doctors to handle with the utmost secrecy and confidentiality," said Dr. Richard Frankenstein, president of the California Medical Association.

Blue Cross is one of several California insurers that have been criticized for issuing policies without checking applications and then canceling coverage after individuals incur major medical costs. The practice of canceling coverage is under scrutiny by state regulators, lawmakers and the courts.

Troughton said the request of doctors has been in place for several years and Blue Cross has not received any complaints about it. The health insurance company doesn't always cancel the policies of patients with discrepancies in their applications and occasionally offers them another plan, she said.

Lynne Randolph, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Managed Health Care, said the agency would review the letter. Blue Cross is fighting a $1 million fine the department imposed in March over alleged systemic problems the agency identified in the way the company rescinds coverage.

"They are playing a game of 'gotcha' where they are trying to use their doctors against their patients' health interests," said Anthony Wright, executive director of HealthAccess California, a healthcare advocacy organization. "That's about as ugly as it gets."

House Bill 3111 passes committee

Our Opposition - Obviously Rep. Ron Peterson does not get it!
Panel to look at plan mandates. A proposal to take a closer look at mandates in an attempt to reduce the price of health insurance has received the support of a House committee.

A health insurance mandate is a requirement that an insurance company or health plan offer certain benefits.

Mandated benefits and coverage in health insurance plans can increase the cost of basic health coverage by 20 percent to more than 50 percent, according to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.

House Bill 3111, by Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, would require a cost-benefit analysis and one-year wait before any insurance mandate proposal can receive a vote in the Legislature. It received the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee's approval last week.

Many insurance mandates have been enacted in recent years, and they have contributed to the rapid rise in the cost of health care, Peterson said. Under the bill's provisions, insurance mandates could only be filed during odd-numbered years and would only receive a vote from lawmakers in even-numbered years.

An estimated 700,000 people in Oklahoma are uninsured.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Senator Easley's Bill SB 1686 passes Senate Ed Committee

Oklahoma State Senate

Senator Mary Easley

Senate District 18

Mayes, Tulsa and Wagoner counties

February 11, 2008


Contact: Senator Mary Easley

State Capitol: (405) 521-5590


Senate Education Committee Passes Easley Bill

On Autism Professional Development Training

OKLAHOMA CITY-The Senate Education Committee passed legislation Monday, vote count 11-1, that would encourage school districts to include a special emphasis on autism as part of any professional development program on special education that may be provided to teachers in the district.

Senate Bill 1686 is authored by State Senator Mary Easley, D-Tulsa, and will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Senator Easley said she is particularly passionate about this piece of legislation because autism personally touches her life every day through interaction with a special family member.

“There are many children out there who don’t have the same kind of help we are able to give our family member,” Easley said. “We want to do something to help these children and their families as well as give Oklahoma teachers as many tools necessary to help these wonderful children.’

Rene’ Daman, director of the Oklahoma Autism Network, said one in every 150 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.

Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling. Scientists aren’t sure what causes autism and there is no cure.

“There is an absolute need for this kind of help,” Daman said. “We get a lot of calls from families seeking help for their child. Everyone in the schools, from administrators to bus drivers needs to have a basic understanding of autism. This will help them have a better understanding of the child and the type of support they need to be successful.”

Stephanie Canada, a physical education teacher from Shawnee and Oklahoma’s reigning Teacher of the Year, said she supports Senator Easley’s bill.

“Any professional development to help us better facilitate learning for a child is helpful, especially the autistic child,” Canada said.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Autism Concepts Inc. of Edmond, OK

Click Here to learn more about Autism Concepts Inc. of Edmond, OK

The Rubicon School and Learning Center

The Rubicon School and Learning Center presents

Rubicon Conference on Autism and Pervasive Development Disabilities
April 21. 2008 University of Central Oklahoma
Keynote Speakers
Dr. Bryan Jepson - Thoughtful House in Austin,TX
Senator Jay Paul Gumm - Sponsor of Nick's Law SB 1537

Click Here to read announcements from The Rubicon School and Learning Center located in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Senator Gumm Press Release in Durant Democrat newspaper

Gumm introduces autism bill

by Brian Payne, Staff Writer

Assisting Oklahoma children with autism is the next bill Senator Jay Paul Gumm will try to pass in the Senate.

The bill filed this week by Gumm would mandate health insurance policies to cover treatment for a disorder affecting one in every 150 children. “Healthcare needs to cover things like this. Oklahoma would be the 18th state to adopt a bill with the insurance mandates like this. Residents of Oklahoma deserve the same rights and same coverage as residents in Texas and the other states,” said Gumm.

Senate Bill 1537 called “Nick's Law” would require insurance policies to cover health issues related to autistic disorders. The bill would give more Oklahoma families a chance to seek both diagnosis and treatment for an affliction that is growing at an alarming rate.

A press release from Senator Gumm states, “Autism is as great as any health challenge a child and family would face. Health insurance policies should include protection from debilitating disorders like autism. Families facing autism should not have to worry whether an insurance company bureaucrat has determined it isn't cost effective to cover diagnosis and treatments.”

Gumm said, “I have received dozens of phone calls and e-mails from parents of children with autism since I introduced this bill. The grass-roots support has been overwhelming. The personal stories I hear are both heartbreaking and inspiring. A bill like this is the reason I wanted this job.”

Autism is still a relatively newly diagnosed disease. Those afflicted with it are characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests.

“We need a complete systematic change in the way we provide care to individuals with autism and Nick's Law is the cornerstone for that change,” said Wayne Rohde, father of 10-year-old Nick and a member of a concerned group of parents and doctors called the Oklahoma Autism Coalition.

Aggressive treatments can potentially give diagnosed autistic children aged 3 and younger a 50 percent chance of navigating through a mainstream public school system with limited assistance.

“Research shows us that early intervention is the key giving these children the best chance of fulfilling their God-given potential,” said Gumm. “Health insurance exists for challenges like this. No insured family should ever have to doubt whether they will get the help they expected when they bought insurance.”

According to Gumm the bill is a reasonable, proactive plan to address a crippling problem that is affecting more families than ever.

“This coverage is desperately needed to give autistic children in Oklahoma an opportunity to have a healthy and traditional childhood experience. As a matter of policy, this bill is an important first step in a long-term effort to ensure no Oklahoma child with autism will be left behind,” he said.

“I am really honored to be selected to carry this bill. Getting to know these people has been such a great experience. I will be changed from this experience for the better, hopefully with a positive outcome.”

Friday, February 8, 2008

Parents Day, Monday Feb 11th, 2008

There will be many parents, grandparents, friends, and other concerned individuals meeting with their own leglisators. We hope to make a great difference to the Senators and Representatives that will be considering Nick's Law in the next few weeks.

You all will make such a big impact with your legislator. They need to know what it is like to live with Autism Everyday! Please make sure that you give them a photo of your child so they can see who and why they will be casting on the most important health care votes in Oklahoma's history!

Dee Blose and Wayne Rohde will be greeting all of you on the 4th floor of the capitol. We will have some 1 page fact sheets and other materials for you to keep with you and discuss with your legislator.

It is very important that they hear your personal story of how autism has effected your life, your family, and your future!

If your Senator does not sit on the Retirement and Insurance Committee, tell them to contact the Republican members of the committee and ask them to support Nick's Law.

If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Dee's cell phone (405) 640-4598
Wayne's cell phone (405) 973-7049

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Senate Retirement & Insurance Committee

Here are the members of the Senate Retirement & Insurance Committee.

Co-Chairman Sen. Bill Brown - R of Broken Arrow
Co-Chairman Sen. John Sparks - D of Norman

Senator Clark Jolley - R of Edmond
Senator Randy Bass - D of Lawton
Senator Cliff Aldridge - R of Choctaw
Senator Tom Adelson - D of Tulsa
Senator Mike Mazzei - R of Tulsa
Senator Nancy Riley - D of Tulsa
Senator Anthony Sykes - R of Newcastle
Senator Kenneth Corn - D of Howe

The Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee meets on
Thursdays 10:00am Room 419 A&B

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Nick's Law in the House

Nick's Law HB 2459 has been assigned to the House Economic Development & Financial Services Committee. Rep. Colby Schwartz R-Yukon is the primary sponsor of Nick's Law in the House.

The Chairman of the House Economic Development & Financial Services committee is Rep. Ron Peterson R-Tulsa. Rep. Peterson has a long standing principal of not accepting any health care mandates into this committee. If the chairman is allowed to continue this unacceptable practice of not allowing legislation to be heard in his committee, the legislation will have difficulty becoming law.

The debate centers around the issue of health care mandates will cause increases to the overall cost of health care insurance. The estimated cost for Nick's Law is approximately $ .50 to $ 4.00 per contract per month. This is very small in comparison to the cost to the taxpayers as parents and families are putting tremendous pressure on the state for services. Many of those services have waiting lists of several years.

Please contact your Representative now!! Ask them to consider moving Nick's Law HB 2459 forward in committee.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Senator Clark Jolley and SB 2071

Senator Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, has filed legislation SB 2071 that will create a BCBA Curriculum and Autism Internship program at the University of Central Oklahoma. Addressing the acute shortage of qualified therapists and behavioral analysts in Oklahoma, this program will develop practitioners with autism related work experience for those who are pursuing the BCBA and BCBA Associate certifications.

Senator Jolley, a member of the Senate Higher Education committee, sees the legislation as a crucial ingredient in providing care and education for the children and adults with autism in Oklahoma and addressing the needs to development qualified therapists to provide treatment for these individuals.

Assisting Senator Jolley in drafting the legislation were Dr. Rita Chandler, Dr. Thomas Evans of DHS-DDSD, and Dr. Mary Sweet-Darter of UCO.

Parents to visit with their Legislators

Parents, family members, and concern citizens are asked to setup appointments with their senators and representatives for Monday, Feb 11th. It is very important that each elected official discuss with parents in person about our children and adults with autism.

There is great discussion at the capitol about autism and our legislators need to hear it first hand. Nick's Law, along with other legislation regarding teacher training, a BCBA Curriculum and Autism Training at University of Central Oklahoma are key pieces of legislation that need to be passed in Oklahoma.

Dee Blose and Wayne Rohde along with others from Nick's Law steering committee will be at the capitol all day to help parents and family members locate their legislators. They will also have some printed material to use for your discussions.

Please call now in advance to setup an appointment with your specific legislator. Tell them about Nick's Law SB 1537 (Gumm), SB 1498 (Easley), SB 1692 (Anderson), and in the House, HB 2459 (Schwartz). Ask them to co-sponsor those bills.

Also ask them to co-sponsor SB 2071 (Jolley) to create a BCBA curriculum and Autism training center at UCO along with SB 1686 (Easley) to provide teacher training of Autism in the public schools.

Please bring several color photos or copies of photos with you and leave them with your legislators. Please talk about your daily life with autism, the financial devastation, and the mental health conditions of your family. It is very important that they understand your world and how we all live with Autism Everyday.

Senator Mary Easley

Senator Mary Easley from Tulsa has introduced 2 bills for this upcoming session that address the autism epidemic in Oklahoma. Her legislation SB 1498, known as Nick's Law, is a companion bill of Senator Jay Paul Gumm's SB 1537 and Senator Patrick Anderson's SB 1692.

Senator Easley has also introduced SB 1686 that calls for training of Autism in the public schools. Senator Easley is a retired school teacher and has first hand knowledge of the problems facing school teachers on how to educate our children. "On behalf of all teachers in Oklahoma, I am is very proud to introduce legislation that will provide training to all teachers about Autism".

Oklahoma State Senate

Communications Services

State Capitol

Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For immediate release: January 25, 2008

Weekly Senate Review by Mary Easley

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be discussing some of my bills and those of my fellow legislators that I feel are important for our state. This week, I’d like to talk about autism and how it affects our children, their families, our education system and our state as a whole.

Autism is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling. Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. Sadly, scientists aren’t sure what causes autism and there is no cure.

This year, I’ve filed two bills dealing with autism, SB 1686 and SB 1498. With so many autistic children, it’s important that our schools be prepared and know how to properly deal with and care for these children.

SB 1686 requires school districts to include a special emphasis on autism as part of any professional development program on special education that may be provided to teachers in the district. This will ensure that we have trained professionals in our schools ready to take care of these children.

Autism can also put a heavy financial burden on families, so I also think it’s important that these children be able to have insurance to cover their care. SB 1498 would provide access to insurance for all of Oklahoma’s autistic children under the age of 21. It directs individual and group health benefit plans to provide coverage for the treatment of an autistic disorder which is prescribed by the individual’s treating physician in accordance with a treatment plan. The measure also prohibits insurers from subjecting coverage to dollar limits, deductibles and coinsurance provisions which are less favorable than those which apply to coverage for general physical illness. The bill subjects coverage for behavioral therapy to a maximum benefit of $75,000 per year with a maximum period of coverage of three years. That time period could be extended if clinical progress reports demonstrate that the child is in a period of steady skill acquisition. Under provisions of the bill, insurers would be prohibited from denying or restricting coverage on an individual solely because the individual is diagnosed with an autistic disorder. Finally, the bill excludes the act from applying to limited benefit policies.

If you have any questions about these or other bills or issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I greatly encourage and welcome your feedback. If you have questions or comments on this issue or others, you can write me at Senator Mary Easley, Room 429, State Capitol, Oklahoma City 73105-4808, email me at or call my Senate office (405) 521-5590.