Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Letter to the Citizens of Oklahoma

Over the course of the last several months, I have received a lot of emails from people of Oklahoma and across the nation about Nick’s Law. Most of them have been good and complimentary of the efforts of Nick’s Law.

I have also received many from ordinary people who have hate, ugliness, and selfishness in their heart and soul. They simply don’t get it. They say how dare you call your special interest bill after a child, that’s just a cheap trick for sympathy. You have no right to increase my insurance. You are going to bankrupt my business. You are a socialist, a special interest wacko. You are the reason for your child’s condition. Take care of your child, we do not want to. Those are some of the comments. Today was no exception.

Instead of answering to those persons specifically, I want to honor and say thank you to the parents, grandparents of children and their efforts at the capitol, in the schools, and in your homes for advocating for their children. I want to share an article that I submitted to a couple of national publications back in February. This clearly shares the ideals, the concerns, the hopes, and prayers that so many of you have for your children. The article highlights the struggles that many families deal with on a daily basis, whether your child is diagnosed with autism or other disorder. Hopefully, our legislature is listening and will help us.


Wayne Rohde

The Insurance Industry’s Folly of Autism Coverage.

For the last decade many parents and families have received the same message from their insurance companies when submitting for insurance coverage of autism related expenses and services. DENIED.

Why is that a business that is in business to insure for medical expenses, not provide coverage for a medical condition? Their excuse is that most treatments and therapies are “experimental or educational”. Yet, we have nearly 30 years worth of data, studies, and research (hardly experimental) that ABA behavioral therapy provides the necessary treatment to help reverse and recover many autistic children. We have living proof of what bio-medical interventions can do, just look at the pictures of many children before and after.

For many, we followed one government mandate (vaccinations), and we watched our children disappear right in front of us. Now as we are asking our government for a mandate to recover our children, we are being told DENIED.

The insurance lobby uses talking points like mandates will increase the cost of insurance and prevent people to obtain health care insurance. I would like to ask the insurance lobby one question about Nick’s Law, an autism insurance equity; PROVE IT! Show me the data or costs that would be associated with Nick’s Law and how it would prevent others from purchasing insurance. Remember, you have had 6 years to do this in Indiana and there is no data to show any accountable increase. Texas and South Carolina legislatures passed similar bills in 2007. Both had similar comments, “This is the most fiscally responsible thing to do for the taxpayers, and we are morally obligated to our future generations.”

The idea of trying to keep insurance policies affordable is a noble one. However, how we get there is a tale of two cities. The insurance lobby wants to stop or roll back existing mandates. The result in their eyes is that the costs will be lowered. Do you think if they roll back an existing covered disorder or condition, would they immediately lower our insurance? It’s an insult to the intelligence of the parents. What we know is that the policy holders will then have to depend on the state taxpayers for these services and treatments. Shifting health care costs from private insurance to taxpayers is what will happen.

The insurance lobby wants to provide a basic health care plan so more people will purchase policies. There are only two ways to lower the costs of insurance; lower the benefits or lower the reimbursements to the medical providers. We have all heard of the stories of families purchasing low cost insurance policies only to find out later, their child who was stricken with leukemia, the medical costs will not be covered.

Let’s explore an example of what the insurance companies and several legislators would consider a major accomplishment. A family of four, living in Oklahoma making $ 35,000.00 per year, struggles to make ends meet with rent, utilities, and food expenses. They can not afford to purchase health care insurance at an estimated cost of $ 600.00 per month. Legislators and the insurance lobby want us to think that if they can lower the cost of that insurance to $ 300.00 per month, then in their eyes, they have accomplished a very lofty goal. Not bad except for one over looked detail. The family of four still can not afford to purchase the insurance policy at $ 300.00. They will still be dependent on state run and paid for health care.

We hear a lot of rhetoric about the number of uninsured and mandates will lead to more uninsured. Today in Oklahoma, that number is around 708,000 people. Yet in our state, there has been no health care mandates passed since 1999. The uninsured number keeps increasing, but it is not from mandates. Our legislature and our Insurance Department should study the real reasons for this instead of talking about hypothetical’s that do not exist or spend time trying to determine what they want in an insurance policy.

In the Oklahoma Legislature, we hear a lot of talk about family values, defending the sanctity of marriage, and protecting the rights of children. To the legislators, you have no right to talk about family values when you support policies that destroy the family unit. You have no right to talk about marriage and preventing divorce when you unite with forces that are actually destroying marriage. You talk about protecting the rights of children, but yet you do not defend the right for the child to receive the medically necessary treatment to pursue and achieve the opportunity for a normal life. To many of the legislators at the capitol that will not provide us this remedy, then I ask you this: What is your solution for the devastation as a result of this epidemic. Please do not just tell us I am sorry, but I can not help you. We as voters and citizens demand to here your solution.

We all know that in today's world, no insurance means no care, and insurance companies should not be allowed to red line autistic children out of treatment. Nick’s Law aims to stop that.

Nick’s Law will provide greater access for all to health care. Many medical practitioners in the state have quit accepting Medicaid patients. There is such an acute shortage of providers. Yet in other states that have passed autism insurance coverage, there is a resurgence of practitioners that will provide the necessary services and will start to accept Medicaid once again.

State services are max’ed out. The waiting lists for state services are many years long. These children can not wait. Parents are literally racing against the clock to help recover their children that were taken away from them at such an early age.

To the citizens of Oklahoma and across this great nation who do not understand what the financial devastation of autism does to the family and ultimately to the children, you argue that our cause will only increase insurance costs, I have a question for you. Right now we are talking about insurance coverage for autism. Who will step up and defend you when in the future, you or one of your family members is diagnosed with disease or disability that is no longer covered? What happens when breast cancer is no longer covered? What happens when your son/daughter is diagnosed with leukemia only to find out that your insurance will only cover the first $50,000 of the $500,000 total bill?

In a recent story, HealthNet, a California insurance company lost an arbitrated decision and appeal for $ 9 million dollars to a lady who had her insurance policy canceled because she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In a prepared statement, the insurance company stated that they were trying to hold down costs in order to provide an affordable insurance. Now, HealthNet’s appeal has been answered. DENIED!

The insurance companies are leading us down a path of ignoring the people who can not speak for themselves, ignoring who provide care for the people who cannot, ignoring whose parents and families have exerted all of their energy and hope without any recourse or chance to recover, and whose lives that have been taken away.

Every so often, our legislature has the opportunity to do something, which is right and just to its very core. Now is the time and place to do so.

Wayne Rohde

Edmond, Oklahoma

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