Saturday, February 9, 2008

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.”

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