Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Edmond father pushing for autism help

By Michael McNutt

Capitol Bureau

An Edmond father who has spent the past two years trying to get health insurance for autistic children is leading another push today to get the proposal heard before a House committee.

"I knew the biggest hurdle we would always have would be Rep. Ron Peterson and his committee,” said Wayne Rohde, whose 10-year-old son, Nick, has autism. "That's the history of what he's done — he is the person that stops mandates.”

Rohde has appealed to parents to appear at this morning's meeting of the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee.

An effort will be made to get language of the proposal, called "Nick's Law,” inserted as an amendment to Senate Bill 1059.

Peterson, the committee chairman, a week ago killed an amendment that would mandate insurance coverage for autism disorders.

Thursday is the deadline for Senate bills to pass out of House committees. Today is the last day Peterson's committee meets to take up Senate bills.

Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, said Monday he was still consulting with the speaker of the House over what to do. He did not return telephone calls Tuesday.

If the measure isn't heard in Peterson's committee, it's possible Nick's Law language could be attached as an amendment to an existing bill.

"The Republicans are clearly trying to kill the autism language where it doesn't get a fair hearing,” said Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, a committee member who tried last week to get Nick's Law heard by Peterson.

Peterson has authored House Bill 3111, which would place restrictions on new health insurance mandates. It is intended to take a closer look at the cost of insurance mandates to reduce the price, which could offset price increases for policyholders.

Peterson said he's concerned that mandates increase the cost of insurance and make insurance less affordable. His measure did not get heard by a Senate committee. The Senate's deadline to hear House bills was last week.

Negotiations are continuing to keep his proposal alive.

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