Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fight for Nick's Law Continues

Tuesday, March 4, 2008; Posted: 5:20 p.m. (CDT)

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Oklahoma City -- An emotional story continues to unfold at the state capitol. Last week a bill dubbed Nick's Law, designed to help families affected by autism, was denied a hearing in committee, but one state senator hasn't given up. Dozens of families shared their stories in hopes of pushing the bill forward. KSBI-TV's Kealey McIntire has more.

Christina Newendorp is searching for a better future and she's going door to door sharing her touching story with state senators.
"I think that if they understand this is affecting real people that live in their district it makes a big difference," says Newendorp.

Her two sons, ages five and seven, both have autism. They have several medically recommended treatments that help improve life for kids with autism. The Newendorp's say they are forced to pay for treatment themselves because insurance companies don't provide coverage. Nick's Law would change that.

"This was the first year that a legislative effort was brought forth to try to do something about this so I'm totally in support of it. I really hope we can come up with a solution to this problem," says Newendorp.

State Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, author of the bill, says it would mandate that health insurance cover autism diagnosis and treatment. "That is an incredibly important thing to do because these are families who are doing the right thing. They are paying their health insurance premiums, but they're not getting help from the insurance companies and we believe that is something that insurance ought to do," says Gumm.

Nick's Law was denied a hearing in committee. Gumm has now attached the measure as amendments on six different pieces of legislation. Those bills will be heard on the senate floor this week.

However, another bill has been filed that would do away with most insurance mandates, including Nick's Law. Gumm hopes the presence of dozens of families, like the Newendorp's, will keep that bill from passing.

"There are times when government should move slowly, there are times when government should move quickly. This is an issue that government should move quickly because we've moved slowly for too long," says Gumm.

Autism affects one in 150 Oklahoma children. Newendorp hopes pairing a face with the statistic will convince lawmakers to give her sons and hundreds of others a brighter future.

Those who oppose Nick's Law say insurance mandates have driven up premium costs by 40 percent in recent years, but Gumm says taxpayers would save money.

Kids who receive treatment live healthier, more self-sufficient lives. Gumm says kids who are left untreated often end up wards of the state whom taxpayers are responsible for.

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