Insurance should provide coverage for autism
Apr 07, 2008 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)
Seven years ago Indiana passed a law requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for autism. Since then 17 states have passed similar legislation.
Last week, Arizona joined the list. Louisiana, Mississippi and Connecticut have bills under consideration. So does Oklahoma. Several weeks ago, "Nick's Law," named for 10-year-old Nick Rohde, an autistic child from Edmond, passed in the Senate. Now supporters are trying to get the bill out of a House committee. This is not an inconsequential matter.
The bio-neurological disorder occurs in one in 150 births and affects up to 1.5 million Americans. The cost of life-long care can be reduced by two-thirds with early diagnosis and intervention. In a decade the annual national care costs will be up to $200 billion.
The bill did not make it on the agenda of the House Economic Development Committee meeting Thursday. But parents of children affected by autism who had showed up to support "Nick's Law" did not leave and instead hung around to answer questions from lawmakers during breaks in the meeting and afterward.
Fortunately Nick's Law is appended to another bill set to come up
in the Economic Development Committee. Let's hope it can be heard and that committee members will have the courage to vote for it.
For the families of children with autism, the bio-neurological disorder is as real as heart disease, more prevalent than childhood cancer and often difficult to treat. Obtaining insurance coverage for psychological and neurological disorders has never been an easy sell in Oklahoma.
It took years for lawmakers to recognize that mental health treatment deserved coverage parity with other illnesses.
Our insurance industry is not heavily mandated. According to the Tulsa Autism Foundation the insurance industry's own policy group reports that autism insurance coverage would increase costs by less than 1 percent.Mandates affecting the state insurance industry must be scrutinized carefully with an eye toward fairness. Why should autism be excluded? Lawmakers should seriously consider authorizing coverage for this devastating disorder, the fastest-growing developmental disability in the nation