Saturday, May 31, 2008

Insurance industry champ Ron Peterson bowing out


Sat May 31, 2008
Insurance industry champ Ron Peterson bowing out

Ron Jenkins
The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY _ Ron Peterson, the lawmaker who blocked health insurance mandates after getting thousands of dollars in contributions from insurance companies, is only one of a growing list of Republican House leaders opting to give up their legislative posts.

Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, announced last week that he will not be among lawmakers who will be taking part in the three-day filing period that begins Monday at the state Capitol.

He was not specific about his plans, other than that he would be returning to the private sector. He is a former owner of a property and casualty insurance agency and his wife is a part-time independent insurance agent.

to read more, please click here.

What promise does Ohio hold for autistic boy from Oklahoma?

Fri May 30, 2008
What promise does Ohio hold for autistic boy from Oklahoma?

By Michael McNutt
Capitol Bureau
Caroline Hall says her family has no choice but to leave Oklahoma because legislators didn't pass a bill requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatments.

Nick's Law: Autism
Caroline and Doug Hall say they are moving to Ohio after state lawmakers...

"The house should be ready to put up for sale next week,” she said.

She and her husband, Doug, are moving to Ohio, where their 4 1/2 -year-old-son, Dougie, can take part in a special scholarship program for autistic children, she said.

Caroline Hall, who works in the physics department at the University of Oklahoma, was one of more than 30 parents who went to the state Capitol for several weeks to encourage legislators to pass the bill known as Nick's Law. The measure passed in the Senate, but died in the House.

"It's been more than a frustration; it's been an outrage,” she said.

Hall said she appreciates the efforts of Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, who wrote Nick's Law and got it passed in the Senate.

Click Here to read more.

Click Here to view the video.

Free Market Solutions work best

Just another person who thinks that free markets work well in the health care industry. It's the difference between theory and what actually happens. Good try for a classroom but a failure in the real world.....Wayne Rohde

Thu May 29, 2008

Letters to the editor: Thursday,
Free market solutions work best
Government mandates and regulations rarely fix anything. Such would be true with the proposed autism insurance coverage mandate. This law appears to fix a problem; it would actually worsen the problem of health care cost increases. The solution to autistic kids getting coverage for their condition is found in capitalism. If the Legislature wants to unleash real change in the health care for Oklahomans, it would roll back all mandates already put on insurance companies, not add more.

If you release insurance companies to provide any sort of coverage they feel the public would buy (no matter how bad or how good), the free-market system will work the problem out by itself. More competition and more choices for the consumer always lead to a better, cheaper product. This solution might sound heartless with all of the sob stories that you hear about families with autistic kids who have no health insurance, but it's actually the most compassionate thing to do because it will cause us to depend less on government and more on other people.

Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge's opposition to the autism mandate is the right position, and I hope that he will continue to take this conservative and responsible view of the government's proper role.

James Greiner, Oklahoma City

Legislation mandating coverage for autism failed to win approval in the 2008 session of the Legislature.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Peterson not to seek re-election

Christmas does come to Oklahoma in the summer

Contact: State Rep. Ron Peterson
Capitol: (405) 557-7338

Peterson Announces He Will Not Seek Re-election

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 28, 2008) - State Rep. Ron Peterson announced today
that he will not seek re-election this year.
"I have enjoyed my service in the Legislature and feel that I've
made a real contribution to the state, but it's time for me to return to
the private sector," said Peterson, R-Broken Arrow. "I am proud that I
championed common-sense, conservative legislation that will grow our
economy and create private-sector jobs."
Peterson was first elected to the Oklahoma House of
Representatives in 2000 and has served four terms. During the last four
years he has served as chairman of the House Economic Development &
Financial Services Committee.
Peterson said one of his greatest legislative accomplishments is
the creation of an online insurance verification system that will combat
the problem of uninsured drivers.
"For too long, uninsured drivers have been free to create severe
economic hardship whenever they plow into law-abiding Oklahomans,"
Peterson said. "I have worked for several years to create a system that
will help police identify those drivers and remove that threat from our
The online verification system, created by legislation Peterson
authored two years ago, is scheduled to go into full effect at the end
of 2008.
Peterson said he is also proud to have authored legislation
protecting vulnerable seniors from being exploited by insurance scams.
Senate Bill 1980, by Peterson, state Sen. Sean Burrage (D-Claremore) and
state Sen. Todd Lamb (R-Edmond), created the Viatical Settlements Act of
The legislation gave the state greater regulatory power over a
practice known as stranger-originated life insurance (or STOLI) that
allows individuals to purchase life insurance policies from the elderly,
often paying only a fraction of the policy's value.
According to a report by the nonpartisan Research Institute for
Economic Development, Peterson supported pro-economic growth legislation
96 percent of the time during his tenure in office - one of the best
cumulative scores in the Legislature.
"I've tried to champion policies that will create jobs for
Oklahomans and I think my RIED score reflects that philosophy," Peterson
said. "I didn't seek office to grow government. I ran to increase
opportunity for all Oklahomans."
Peterson has been an unusually effective legislator during his
time in office as evidenced by the fact that he has filed bills that
became law every year he served, even when Republicans were in the
minority. During the first four years Peterson served, Democrats held
the majority in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
"Regardless of whether I was in the minority or the majority, I
have been able to move legislation through the process at the Capitol,"
Peterson said. "That's been a point of pride for me. I don't think too
many people can match that track record under those circumstances."

Sen Gumm's statement about Rep Peterson's remarks

The State of Oklahoma
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties

May 28, 2008

Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Durant: (580) 924-2221
Mobile: (580) 920-6990

Profile of “Nick’s Law” Opponent Reveals True Intentions
Autistic Children “Will Be Wards of the State in Any Case,” Peterson Says

OKLAHOMA CITY – A “puff-piece” profile of the lawmaker leading the fight against “Nick’s Law,” the autism insurance bill, reveals his true intentions, according to Senator Jay Paul Gumm.
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) distributed a profile of Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow. The profile lauds the lawmaker’s “courage” for blocking even consideration of Nick’s Law when it arrived in the House of Representatives, noting Peterson’s defense of “free enterprise.”
“There is nothing courageous about turning your back on children who have no voice,” said Gumm, who wrote Nick’s Law. “Praising Rep. Peterson’s stand against Nick’s Law for its ‘free enterprise’ implications is the moral equivalent of praising an abortionist who destroys life just to make a buck. This is a lame defense of an unconscionable stand.”
Despite differences between the lawmakers, Gumm said he “believed in his heart Rep. Peterson was sincere” in saying he might consider the measure upon completion of an “independent” actuarial study.
“The puff-piece – inadvertently, I would suspect – pulls the curtain back and lets us see the ‘wizard’ for what his intentions truly are,” Gumm said. “Clearly, Rep. Peterson and those in the insurance industry to whom he is beholden will never allow Nick’s Law to be heard. The profile is a puff-piece that hits families with autistic children like a sledgehammer.”
A paragraph in the profile quotes Peterson as he belittles treatment of autistic children and implies these children are hopeless, Gumm related. “He apparently thinks autistic children are throwaway, a lost cause,” he said.
Peterson said in the profile that the treatment that would be covered by Nick’s Law is clinically unproven.
“The medical profession has stated there’s no reason to believe behavioral therapy is any more effective than anything else,” Peterson said. “The results are described as marginal in any case, and these individuals will be wards of the state in any case. So you’d have the cost without any benefit, as best we can see.”
Gumm said he was shocked at the impudence of the statement. “With one paragraph, Rep. Peterson tells every parent of every autistic child that their child is not worth saving, not worth even trying to save,” he said. “I cannot imagine anyone taking so cavalier attitude toward life; it truly is fear-provoking.”
Trying to save children from an adult life as wards of the state and giving their families some hope are the key purposes behind Nick’s Law, Gumm related. “Aside from the distastefulness of an elected official apparently considering the most vulnerable among us as throwaway, let’s look at the financial end of it,” he said.
“These ‘wards of the state’ will cost untold millions in taxpayer dollars. Instead of expecting health insurance to do what families pay premiums for and help these children, Rep. Peterson is content to pass the eventual bill to taxpayers. In the meantime, his so-called ‘courage’ is keeping children locked behind the walls of autism. He is wrong on both counts.”
Oklahomans will have to assert the political power they have, guaranteed in the state Constitution, to end insurance discrimination against autistic children. To that end, parents pressing for autism insurance coverage have vowed to continue the fight – over the next eight months and back at the Capitol during the 2009 legislative session.
Gumm said the parents are the ones showing real courage. “If OCPA, or anyone else for that matter, wants to see real courage, simply look into the eyes of these parents,” he said.
“Real courage is speaking truth to powerful interests; real courage is never giving up on your children. These families have shown unwavering strength in the face of antipathy and outright hostility. There cause is righteous, and it is my honor to stand alongside them, come what may.”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rep Ron Peterson continues to issue ignorant statements

Under Intense Pressure, Peterson Steadfastly Defends Economic Freedom

Please read the paragraph in bold print to really see the window to this man's soul and that he really does not care for the most vulnerable members of our society, the children with special needs.

May 15, 2008

State Rep. Ron Peterson is "not willing to make insurance even less affordable for those who are already having trouble getting and keeping basic health insurance coverage."

During this legislative session, state Rep. Ron Peterson (R-Tulsa) has taken a lot of criticism for his conservative (in the traditional sense of the word) position on government imposition of health insurance mandates.

Peterson has stood firm against a mandate for autism coverage-understandably desired by parents of children with the condition, and pressed by legislative Democrats, with the help of a largely sympathetic news media.

The agency which administers state government insurance programs estimated the autism mandate would increase insurance costs by about $6 million. Peterson says analysts tell him the impact could be worse-a cost multiplier of four to ten percent.

But an argument from principle is, for him, more fundamental than clashes over costs.

Do You Believe in Free Enterprise, or Not?

In an interview last week, Peterson told OCPA that "the controversy comes from a starting point, where you are philosophically opposed to government interference in economic activity. I remember the creed I used to recite as a Jaycee, wherein we stated our belief in free enterprise. What was so self-evident then is under attack here at the capitol every day."

Like other libertarians and conservatives, Peterson believes "markets work. Competition works and that will address the issues of health care and insurance better than mandates. Mandates in the area of health insurance? I'm dealing with them all the time as a committee chairman."

Peterson said this year "at least a dozen" mandates were actively discussed or introduced. As he explains, "Mandates come at a cost, and that cost gets passed on to all consumers. In health insurance, we're in a crisis in terms of affordability, and it seems foolish to me to be entertaining mandates that lead to higher costs."

Pressed to elaborate, he continued, "If we're going to consider mandates at all, it seems each one should stand on its own merits." Peterson advanced a bill that would have required "actuarial analysis for any mandate legislation. I thought we should be careful on any and all mandates, so that if one is considered it's done from a position of knowledge, not emotion." But the measure was killed by Senate Democrats.

Proposals along the same line have actually drawn a sympathetic response from state Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, who understands the business of insurance.

The clearest sign that the attacks on Peterson are political, rather than principled, is that the same politicians bashing him never raise the issue, at least not publicly, with her.

"How can it equate that a mandate would not cost?" Peterson asks. "Because risk is spread, proponents argue this would not increase costs. But every mandate has a cost." The wrenching issue of insurance coverage for autism aside, the Council on Affordable Health Insurance estimates that the typical mandate raises costs an average of one percent.

Quarrel with that estimate or not, but markets always respond to costs and to regulation, whether we want them to or not. Aside from cost disputes, there are questions about the efficacy of the specific autism mandate being advanced at the moment.

"What's being suggested is clinically unproven," Peterson said. "The medical profession has stated that there's no reason to believe behavioral therapy is any more effective than anything else. The results are described as marginal in any case, and these individuals will be wards of the state in any case. So you'd have the cost without any benefit, as best we can see."

At the state legislature, is the problem fiscal and medical ignorance, or partisan politics? "It's a combination of both those things," Peterson said. "Legislators are geared, we are wired, to please constituents and to please those who ask us for things, to say yes. We are ill-equipped to withstand this kind of pressure.

And, there is no reward or little reward for saying no. People want, and need, relief. I understand that. But the only way to deal with issues like mandates is to arm yourself with knowledge and understand there are consequences, sometimes serious consequences, that cause more harm than good."

Mandates Increase the Number of Uninsured Specifically, he says, "One consequence of increasing mandates is clear: There are proportionately more uninsured people than there were before. Small business clients who want to provide health insurance can no longer afford it. I can't go along with such a mandate, especially when we are in a full-blown crisis in terms of basic coverage."

How many lobbyists and citizens are roaming the halls of the legislature demanding more mandates-or taxes or regulations or interference in the economy-versus how many are defending economic freedom?

"The answer is simple," Peterson said. "There are very few out here at the capitol defending market principles and limited government. I'd say the proportion is about nine out of 10 are in the first category. And, that's probably an under-estimate. The people who will be uninsured if we pass this or many mandates like it, I guarantee you they will never be heard. They are, from a political standpoint, unrepresented.

In general, the special interests are well represented. The taxpayers are underrepresented. "Our leadership is not prepared to pass a mandate given the crisis we face in access to insurance. This is a philosophical objection, and an honest one."

Peterson continued: "With health care in general, the government has set rules that must be observed. I accept that is where we are. But there are already some 30 mandates on the books. Instead of creating more, we need to bring consumerism into the system, a sense of allowing individuals to control their own destiny. We should allow more options.

"For the most part, now, those with coverage have either self-insurance of a sort that allows lower-cost insurance premiums to protect primarily against catastrophic events, or they have standard policies with coverage and co-pays. Most of the products are non-differential. To make an analogy, most of those covered are either walking or they're driving a Lexus. We need a greater range of choices, to let consumers drive the market instead of government."

Looking to the future, Peterson said he will not change his basic principles, but he reflects, "As for families who face conditions like autism, I have great compassion for them. I'm just not willing to make insurance even less affordable for those who are already having trouble getting and keeping basic health insurance coverage."

Profiles in Courage

OCPA believes in freedom-economic freedom and educational freedom. This spring we have spotlighted Democratic legislators for their truly courageous leadership on the issue of school choice.

For standing up to the regnant assumption that virtually every human problem requires a government solution, and for bringing the party of conservatives along with him, we're pleased to recognize Rep. Ron Peterson as a profile in courage.

Democrats seek hearing on autism mandate

5/21/08, 2:33 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Democrats in the Oklahoma Legislature want House Republican leaders to schedule a hearing on a bill to require health insurers to cover autism. Democrats met with the parents of autistic children at the Capitol Wednesday. The parents held photographs of their autistic children.

The Senate has passed a bill that would mandate coverage of the diagnosis and treatment of autism. But it's bottled up in a House-Senate conference committee and House leaders have not scheduled a vote. The measure's author is Sen. Jay Paul Gumm of Durant who says House leaders are perverting the democratic process by not scheduling a vote. Gumm says the measure would pass the House if a vote is held. House leaders say the mandate will drive up the cost of health insurance policies and make them unaffordable.

Legislative session ends, bond package approved

Posted: May 24, 2008 03:37 PM


The state Legislature rapped its session up late Friday night.

They had passed a resolution to finish by midnight, but the Senate called it quits at 10:23 p.m. The House wrapped just a few minutes later at 10:40 p.m.

In the final minutes of the session, legislators approved a $475 million bond package that provides money from bridge and road maintenance as well as construction on the American Indian Cultural Center.

Most legislators consider the session a success but several have expressed regret over the things they were unable to get done after the session, Governor Henry said.

"I wish we would have been able to fulfill our commitment to teachers and raise their pay to at least the regional average," Henry said. "We simply weren't able to do it because the dollars weren't there."

House Speaker Chris Benge considered it a success.

"The revenue picture really did dictate what happened this year," Benge said. "There were a lot of dynamics out there that could have caused a wreck, and it didn't happen."

Others voiced their regret for not getting to health care, especially bills that would have provided care for children with autism, clinical trials and children without health insurance.

Steffanie's Law effort vowed

Posted: May 23, 2008 11:50 AM

Steffanie's Law was named after brain-cancer patient Steffanie Collings, who died earlier this year.

Associated Press

An Oklahoma senator says efforts to get a hearing for a bill that would require insurance companies to cover routine medical care for those participating in clinical trials have failed.

Oklahoma City Senator Andrew Rice says House Republican leaders refused to permit the measure to receive a vote at any point.

Steffanie's Law covers those who have insurance, but take part in clinical trials in a last-ditch effort to find a cure.

It is named for Steffanie Collings, who died in March at the age of 18 after a 4-year battle with brain cancer. Her family incurred debt of $400,000 after their insurance carrier would not pay for her routine medical bills.

Rice is running for the U.S. Senate, and says if he's elected, he'll take the fight to the federal level.

Opponents of Rice's bill say they're concerned it would raise insurance rates.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Enid Eagle Editorial

Published: May 19, 2008 11:44 pm print this story email this story

Lawmakers should give Nick’s Law consideration

Oklahoma lawmakers are receiving quite a push from parents and family members of children suffering a spectrum of autistic illnesses to require health insurance to cover autism.

Oklahoma is not the only state considering such legislation, and family members of these children are not deterred in trying to make lawmakers see the light.

Here in Oklahoma, they’ve lobbied the Legislature, they’ve taken out ads and they’ve testified to whoever will hear them about the financial demands on families with autistic children.

It’s a heart-wrenching, passionate story. And, what seems to be apparent, it’s a story that more and more people are becoming familiar with as physicians understand better the many aspects of autism.

In Oklahoma the legislation, sponsored by Democrat Sen. John Gumm, is called Nick’s Law, for Nick Rhode, the autistic child of Wayne and Robyne Rhode of Edmond. The legislation seeks to end the gap in insurance coverage for children with autism. It would require insurance companies to cover essential services for individuals with autism.

According to proponents of Nick’s Law, the cost of adding this coverage would amount to around $1.70 for single policy rates and $4.59 for family rates.

To read more, please click here.

Edmond Sun editorial

Autism bill not so bad
The Edmond Sun
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Nick’s Law, a bill in the Oklahoma Senate that would mandate insurance coverage for the medical treatment of autism, continues to generate dueling press releases from both political parties.

The latest releases stem from Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, who authored Senate Bill 1537, and from Rep. Ron Peterson, the House member who refused to allow a committee hearing on the bill, effectively stalling it in the House.

Gumm, D-Durant, said he believes Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, does not understand the crisis proportions of autism in Oklahoma, while Peterson says Gumm doesn’t understand an actuarial study the senator provided trying to show the mandate will not dramatically increase insurance rates.

The two men disagree on what the cost impact of the legislation will be to insurance consumers. Gumm contends it’s a 1 percent increase while Peterson estimates it to be at a 5.22 percent increase.

To read more, click here.

Rep Mike Brown plans discharge petition

Mike Brown
Lawmaker tries unique approach to force vote on autism bill, but bid falls short
5/16/08,12:20 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Democratic state lawmaker leading an effort to force Republican leaders in the House to schedule a vote on legislation that would require health insurers to cover autism says it will "take a miracle" to bring the measure to a vote this year. Rep. Mike Brown of Tahlequah began collecting the signatures of his colleagues on Thursday.

Brown says he wants to get enough signatures to force House leaders to pull the bill out of a House-Senate conference committee and schedule it for a vote. Brown says he needs the signatures of two-thirds of the House's 101 members, or 68 signatures, to force the bill to the House floor. So far, Brown says, he has 48 signatures - those of the House's 44 Democrats and four Republicans. Brown says he believes the bill would pass if House members got a chance to vote on it.However, on Friday, Brown admitted that Republican House members will provide no more signatures and the bill appears to be dead for this session.
Thu May 22, 2008
Democrats keep fighting for state coverage of autism

By Michael McNutt
Capitol Bureau
Laurie Mitchell, a grandmother raising an autistic child, said she is grateful for legislators who are continuing to seek legislation that would require insurance companies to cover autism diagnosis and treatment costs.

Even though lawmakers are hoping to end the session Friday, Democratic legislators said Wednesday they are not giving up in their attempt to get legislation heard in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

"These children are worth fighting for, and we have no intention of stopping our fight,” said Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, during a Capitol news conference. "There have been bigger deals done in far less time.”

Mitchell, of Edmond, takes care of her granddaughter, Alaina, 3, who was diagnosed with autism about 18 months ago. Mitchell said Alaina has received some occupational and speech therapy from the state-funded SoonerStart program. But her family, which has insurance and pays hundreds of dollars a month for other treatment, can't afford the expensive behavior treatment programs, which can cost as much as $5,000 a month.

To read more, click here.

Rep Scott Martin bucks House Leadership

Martin bucks party with autism bill support

The Norman Transcript

Transcript Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY --?For state Rep. Scott Martin, it had nothing to do with politics -- and everything to do with his son.
Last week, Martin -- a Norman Republican completing his first term as a state Representative -- became a central player in a titanic struggle being fought in the Oklahoma House.

To read more, please click here.

Sen Gumm's press statement

The State of Oklahoma
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties

May 23, 2008

Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Durant: (580) 924-2221
Mobile: (580) 920-6990

House Leaders Take “Cowardly Route” to Deny Autism Coverage;
Gumm Requests Interim Study of Autism Cost

OKLAHOMA CITY – As the clock runs out on the 2008 legislative session, Senator Jay Paul Gumm expressed disappointment that House Republican leaders continue to stonewall families with autistic children.
“If the Speaker and his minions truly believe in their argument - believe their position is righteous – then why do they fear a vote on ‘Nick'’ Law’?” Gumm asked.
“Instead of fulfilling their responsibility to the people of Oklahoma, House Republican leaders have chosen the cowardly route and repeatedly killed autism insurance – and Steffanie’s Law, and colon cancer screening – in the proverbial ‘smoke-filled room..’ Anything that would improve access to quality health care has been automatically rejected by House Leadership.”
Gumm said the citizens of Oklahoma deserve better than for leaders to hide behind silence and refuse to listen to those Oklahomans they are sworn to serve.
“It is shameful, it is heartbreaking and I fear there will be children who will be irretrievably lost to autism,” he said. “One would have hoped the House leadership would have had the courage to make their case on the floor of what is supposed to be ‘The People’s House’,” Gumm said.
“They may think they have won this battle; the truth is they have lost more than they can imagine. This battle will not end because we who support these measures believe autistic children are worth fighting for; it is sad House leaders refused to place that same value on the children and their families.”
Anticipating House leaders will not “see the light,” Gumm said he has filed a request to conduct a special Senate interim study to examine the issues surrounding autism insurance. He said the bi-partisan committee would examine the impact of coverage for autism treatment, the impact of autism on the state budget, and the impact of “Nick’s Law” on health care premiums.
“Despite the House’s inaction, 1 in 150 Oklahoma children will continue to be diagnosed with autism, and more families will be stretched to the limit and beyond to take care of their children,” Gumm said. “There will be growing pressures on our schools and our social safety net. This is an Oklahoma problem, and we will need a solution.
“Also, since House leaders have tried in vain to discount our study on the cost of autism insurance, I have grave doubts about the integrity and independence of any study conducted by them on autism.”
The lawmaker said he would never stop in his effort to enact “Nick’s Law.”
“We hear a lot of talk about family values, especially from the very leaders who refused to allow a vote on autism insurance,” he concluded. “They absolutely refused to pass this measure that values families. I think they have forfeited any moral authority to even say the words ‘family values’ in any context at all.”

Rep Mike Brown's press statement

State of Oklahoma
House of Representatives


May 23, 2008

Representative Mike Brown
State Capitol Building Rm. 539B
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 23rd, 2008) A state legislator released a statement regarding Senate Concurrent Resolution 83 and the refusal by House Leadership to hear “Nick’s Law.”

“It is very hypocritical of the Legislature to commission another study about healthcare and not pass important healthcare legislation that could potentially change the lives of hundreds of Oklahomans,” said Representative Mike Brown, D- Tahlequah. “We do a lot of talking in the Legislature. It is time to back up that talk with some action that will help those that we serve.”

SCR 83, by Representative Ron Peterson, R- Broken Arrow, creates a task force and advisory committee to study healthcare reforms. This comes after weeks of House Republicans refusing to hear important healthcare legislation, such as “Nick’s Law”, which requires insurance companies to cover costs associated with autism.
Enough legislators promised to vote for this measure “if it makes it to the floor.” This has been the response all session long, only to be denied these last days that opportunity by the same who promised.

This last ditch effort to save face by trotting out a resolution declaring we should “talk more” about doing something is duplicitous. The parents and grandparents, along with others who have fought this fight all session, can plainly see through all of the lip service they have received.

The very purpose of the task force is to make recommendations relating to the problem of those without health insurance and “to define the role of the federal and state government, the private sector and the not for profit sector in reducing the number of Oklahomans without health insurance”.

The very people this resolution affects are not represented on this study. The study is stacked with hospitals, healthcare providers, insurance companies, and political think tanks. There is no representation from any consumer or advocate group. Labor has become the bridge and the advocate for the underrepresented, underinsured, and uninsured which includes parents, retiree’s, children, teachers and state employees.

“Since we can’t pass imperative healthcare reforms this Session or allow the voice of the people to speak, what chance do these children’s voices have of being heard from such a stacked deck?” asked Brown.

The Legislature worked until midnight Thursday night and still refused a few precious minutes of that time to hear a reform that will help Oklahoma's children. Friday, the last day for bills to be heard another 30 minutes break was taken so legislators could review new items added to the calendar and the last day's deadline extended until midnight.

The House can take up ‘Nick’s Law’ today. Now is not the time to waste taxpayer dollars by stalling, standing around and requesting yet another study group. The people of Oklahoma deserve more than this.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Senator Gumm - Peterson shows a "Lack of Understand" About Autism Crisis

Thursday, May 15, 2008
Senator Gumm: Peterson Shows "Lack of Understanding" About Autism Crisis

OKLAHOMA CITY – An analysis by Rep. Ron Peterson of an actuarial study on “Nick’s Law” shows the representative’s “serious lack of understanding” about the autism crisis, according to Senator Jay Paul Gumm.

“Rep. Peterson may know his former profession – insurance – but his analysis of the actuarial study we provided to him shows he simply does not understand the autism crisis,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant who has fought for passage of autism insurance.

“Every autistic child is different with different needs. To suggest that every autistic child presents the same exposure to the insurance industry is flat wrong and not borne out by the experience in other states – or the experience of parents of autistic children.”

The key premise of Peterson’s news release was that the study, provided by Gumm to House leaders earlier this week, did not reflect that every autistic child would take the maximum benefit allowed under “Nick’s Law.”

Peterson’s estimate of a 5.22 percent increase in rates has not happened in any state with an autism insurance law. Further, the fiscal impact statement on state employees’ insurance – touted by Peterson as justification for killing “Nick’s Law” – did not reflect anything more than a 1 percent impact on claim payouts.

“I guess the question is: ‘Which is it? One percent or more than 5 percent?” Gumm asked. “The numbers from other states’ experience, as well as the numbers from Mr. Bouder’s study, have all been consistent: one percent or less impact.

“This latest release smells of desperation, and is nothing more than another attempt at confusion and delay by someone apparently determined to continue discrimination against families with autistic children.”

Peterson’s latest release comes as more criticism is heaped on the House for denying a vote on “Nick’s Law,” even from conservative quarters. Ron Black is a conservative media personality who, on his blog, lamented the fact that House leaders were unwilling to “cover the least among us.

“This is one case were ‘it’s for the children’ has meaning and my Republican brethren are living up to the stereotype of the GOP being bought and paid for by big business,” Black wrote.

Gumm said it is obvious support for “Nick’s Law” crosses party lines and political philosophies – the only roadblock is an intransigent House leadership.

“Time is of the essence in treating autistic children,” he concluded. “Every day we get closer to the end of this legislative session, and every day we lose more precious Oklahoma children to a disorder that is treatable. ‘Nick’s Law’ would change that, if only we could get a hearing.
“This is an issue about life, and Rep. Peterson wants to squabble over pennies.”

Posted by Senator Jay Paul Gumm at 10:44 PM

Read More, click Here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Benge: Autism bill needs more study


OKLAHOMA CITY — The parents of a child with autism said a meeting with House Speaker Chris Benge did not persuade the lawmaker to hear a bill seeking insurance coverage for autism.

A spokeswoman for Benge, Jennifer Mock, said the Tulsa Republican believes that the issue needs further study and that the meeting did not change his mind.

Wayne and Robyne Rohde of Edmond, whose 10-year-old son, Nick, has autism, met Tuesday with Benge.

"We did not really get any good results out of it," Wayne Rohde said.

Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, has sponsored Senate Bill 1537, legislation that would require insurance coverage for autism. The bill is called "Nick's Law."

Gumm said an analysis by a Pennsylvania expert indicates that the impact on insurance rates would be $1.66 per member per month for single policy rates and $4.59 for family rates.

Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, said Benge asked him to review the findings of the report, adding that it was prepared by a person who is with an autism advocacy group.

"We will be reviewing the assumptions made in this report to determine the validity and accuracy of its findings," Peterson said.

it is imperative that we have an independent, thorough review of the true costs of this mandate."

Gumm said the study is unimpeachable and that he stands by the report.

He said any group chosen by House Republicans to conduct a study won't be independent.

To read the entire report, click here.

Autism Mandate fight continues

Autism mandate fight continues

Posted: May 13, 2008 01:36 PM

Associated Press - May 13, 2008 2:35 PM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Supporters of a bill to require health insurers to cover autistic children are trying to bolster their case with a new analysis showing the mandate would not be as costly as opponents say.

Sen. John Gumm cited an actuarial study by an expert in Pennsylvania showing Gumm's legislation to help autistic families would have an impact of less than half of a percent on insurance rates.

Gumm, a Durant Democrat, was joined at a news conference by parents of autistic children, who met earlier Tuesday with House Speaker Chris Benge.

The parents said they were unable to persuade Benge to agree to hear the Senate-passed autism bill in the House.

Autism is a developmental disability in children that affects their communications skills.

Supporters continue fight for insurance laws

Supporters continue fight for insurance laws

Posted: May 15, 2008 04:56 PM

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

With a week left in the legislative session, two groups are making last ditch efforts to get their bills heard.

Supporters of Nick's Law and Steffanie's Law thanked legislators for their support on Thursday while urging them to continue fighting for the laws. Both laws would require insurance companies to provide more health care coverage.

"We're really frustrated our voices are not being heard," said Dee Blose, Nick's Law supporter.

Steffanie's Law would require insurance companies to continue covering routine care for cancer patients who undergo clinical trials, and Nick's Law would require companies to cover treatment for autism.

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Autism group disputes claims about state bill's costsRelated Information

By John Greiner
Capitol Bureau
Mandating insurance coverage for autism would have little effect on insurance rates, according to a study released Tuesday by advocates for insurance coverage for children with autism.

The study by James N. Bouder, chief operating officer for a Pennsylvania school created to help children with autism, said rates would increase less than a half percent. The school is Vista School in Hershey, Pa.

The report was released by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, author of "Nick's Law,” which would mandate coverage for autism. This is the latest effort by Gumm, D-Durant, and parents of autistic children to get the House to hear Senate Bill 1537.

Bouder estimated premiums will increase $1.66 per single member per month and $4.59 per family per month if SB 1537 is enacted.

Wayne Rohde of Edmond, whose son Nick is the namesake of Nick's Law, met earlier in the day with House Speaker Chris Benge, who has said Nick's Law will not be brought up this session.

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lawmaker blocks insurance mandate bills

Lawmaker blocks insurance mandate bills

May 5, 2008 11:43 PM CDT

Rep. Ron Peterson (R-Broken Arrow) has blocked legislation that would require health insurers to cover a variety of medical procedures.
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A state lawmaker who has blocked legislation that would require health insurers to cover a variety of medical procedures and conditions has accepted thousands of dollars in donations from individuals or political action committees with ties to the insurance industry, records show.

Rep. Ron Peterson, chairman of the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee, has received a total of $64,600 in election campaign contributions since Jan. 1, 2007, according to records filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Of the total, $20,075 came from people or PACs with ties to the insurance industry.

Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, is the former owner of a property and casualty insurance agency and his wife is a part-time independent insurance agent. Peterson said the campaign contributions and his close ties to the industry have not influenced his position on insurance mandate legislation.

"They can say I'm the devil and I've been bought off. It's absolutely not true," Peterson said. Peterson said he opposes insurance mandates and believes they drive up the cost of health insurance, making it unaffordable for many Oklahomans.

Please click here to read the rest of the story.

House Leaders face political pressure on Nick's Law

Tue May 6, 2008

By Tim Talley
Associated Press Writer
Supporters of legislation that would require health insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism brought new political pressure Tuesday on Republican leaders in the Oklahoma House to schedule a hearing on the Senate-passed bill.

Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, who authored the measure known as "Nick's Law," urged GOP House Speaker Chris Benge of Tulsa to offer an alternative to the autism mandate if he is unwilling to allow House members to vote on it. The measure received bipartisan support in the Senate.

"You have given your answer to 'Nick's Law,' and it is 'No.' My question, Mr. Speaker, is: What is your solution?" Gumm states in a letter that was hand-delivered to Benge's office.

"We have placed ours on the table time and again only to be denied even a chance to present it in what is supposed to be 'The People's House'," said Gumm, D-Durant.

To read more, please click here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Parent are Autism's Hidden Victims

Sharky McGarry, who has autism, is comforted by his mother Lillie McGarry after he became upset. Photographed in their Capitol Hill apartment in Seattle on Monday, April 21, 2008. (Dan DeLong / P-I)

Parents are autism's hidden victims

Baffling disorder hurts more than just those who have it

Last updated May 4, 2008 11:56 p.m. PT


Sharky Munat was 2 years old when the police came.

For 45 minutes the toddler's screams pierced the thin walls of his mother's two-bedroom apartment, until a neighbor finally called the cops.

His mother was used to screaming from her unusual child, who cried for hours if she simply laughed while watching television. But Lillie Addams felt sick when a police officer stopped them to check her son for bruises as they walked to the park.

The officer quickly realized there was no attack -- he was just one of "those kinds of kids" -- but his mother wouldn't know the kind was autistic for two more years.

"Check it out, buddy. If you keep it up, they are going to take you away," the one-time ballet dancer told her son once the officer let them go. Then she sat on a park bench and cried for an hour.

Children have autism, but parents are often invisible casualties. Their child's disorder ricochets through their lives, breaking up marriages, draining bank accounts and robbing them of sleep. University of Washington researchers found these parents, among all with disabled children, suffer the highest levels of depression and anxiety symptoms, and parenting stress.

Since Sharky was diagnosed, his mother has dealt with depression, chest-seizing anxiety attacks, insomnia and incessant guilt that she wasn't doing enough.

"It's this overwhelming sense of powerlessness," Addams said. "I feel blamed by society, by insurance companies. As if it was somehow our fault."

Seattle may be a leading center for autism research and treatment, but its therapists and the medical community can't handle the growing number of families dealing with the disorder. Today, as many as one in 150 children are diagnosed with autism, up from three to four out of 10,000 a decade ago.

More than a year after Sharky's diagnosis, the Addams family felt alone and stressed. Without a map for treatment, they, like other Seattle parents of autistic children, were stuck in a maze of therapies for a disorder with no cure.

There are few insurance plans that cover touted behavioral treatments and not enough therapists or slots at specialized schools. Parents can wait 18 months for services -- after doctors urge them to begin treatment quickly -- and pay tens of thousands of dollars a year out of their own pockets for therapy.

Over the past year and a half, Sharky's three parents -- Lillie, her ex-husband, Ted Munat, and her partner, Stormy Addams -- have visited a dozen doctors, therapists and classrooms, yet they still can't fill big gaps in their son's treatment. "Everywhere we have gone they are pushing you in different directions," Stormy Addams, 43, said. "Or they are pushing against you."

On a cool afternoon in April 2007 while many 4-year-olds play at nearby Miller Park, Sharky comes home from school and stays inside his Capitol Hill apartment, running across the wood floors like any kid his age, and talking about Spider-Man and Big Wheels.

But he runs across the same area again and again, his ponytail and hands flapping around him, uttering words often impossible to understand. By his third birthday, this engaging child had choked a baby and wanted to kill the family cat.

His behavior meant there were no raucous birthday parties, play dates or big dinners out for this family because Sharky could get overstimulated, lash out and throw tantrums that lasted for hours, or simply invite unwanted glares and advice from others parents.

"Our world has become very small," said Lillie Addams, a registered nurse at Group Health Inc.'s cardiac unit.

The Seattle P-I talked to families, therapists and researchers around Seattle dealing with autism who echoed her alienation, anxiety and lack of support.

The daily grind

Like an invasive weed, Sharky's autism permeated most daily routines for his first four years.

At dinnertime in June, Stormy Addams snatches Sharky's broiled salmon from their tiny oven, puts it in the freezer and then onto his Hello Kitty placemat, hoping to avoid a scene.

"Make it colder. Make it cold. Make it cold," Sharky begs again and again because if it's warm, he likely won't eat, he will shriek with the same terror as when his bath is too warm.

Then a bite of salmon falls onto Sharky's Spider-Man T-shirt and he begins swiping at it compulsively. When another morsel drops to the floor, he finally screams, and Lillie Addams ushers him to the first of four timeouts in his bedroom.

After two hours of this, dinner finally ends, and it's off to the bathroom, where one parent holds him down so he won't thrash while the other brushes his teeth. Even after the 4-year-old falls asleep in Stormy and Lillie's queen-size bed that night, he thrashes, eventually bloodying Lillie Addams' nose.

"Everything is all drama," Stormy Addams says.

Fast-forward 10 months, and Sharky has taken impressive strides. His sweet social nature now far outweighs more typical outbursts of 30 minutes or less.

But his speech and comprehension remain noticeably delayed, and his mother's worry is just as intense, though now focused on finding and paying for therapy and the right school.

That means Lillie Addams often sleeps in bursts of two to four hours. She tried Ambian, Lunesta and Trazodone, but those sleeping pills worked only for a few months.

"What I am not doing?" Lillie Addams, 39, asked.

Last fall the worry got so bad, she thought she was having a heart attack when her chest began tightening. It turned out to be anxiety attacks.
Chart of autism rates

Since autism remains such a mystery, parents battle this anxiety for years and constantly manage their expectations. When Sharky turned 4, Lillie Addams thought he would never go to college. Now she is not sure.

"Now I just hope he can lead an independent life, and have a girlfriend, or someone to love."

Her maternal hopes fluctuate because her son's autism is impossible to pigeonhole. With an infectious smile, he plays peacefully with his 5-year-old neighbor in the apartment courtyard one day and tells his father he loves him 20 times the next.

"Lots of friends of mine, their first comment is: 'What a happy child he seems to be,' " Munat said.

But Sharky always struggled to speak and understand. In the fall of 2006, a group of therapists, psychologists and nurses told them why, diagnosing him with autism, but not much else.

"It was kind of like this is what you got. See ya bye. We'll send you some paperwork," Lillie Addams said.

Since then, Addams has struggled to understand a disorder that's so hard to define that children are diagnosed on a spectrum. She still doesn't know where her son falls on that scale.

Meanwhile, treatment costs easily overwhelmed this family, which earns a combined $70,000 a year. They would love to get Sharky intensive behavioral therapy, for example, but they can't afford it.

"It's like having a carrot dangled in front of you," Addams said. "I make $30,000 a year, and often the cost of ABA (behavioral therapy) is $30,000."

Health insurance is little help. Few company plans cover behavioral therapies. After Sharky's two working parents cover co-payments for speech and occupational therapy there is little left for such promising therapies.

With little extra money, the three parents patched together Sharky's treatment plan over the last year, and worried his window to progress was closing because of what he missed. Sharky was diagnosed at age 4, later than many children with autism

The expense is one more layer of worry on an already complicated family. Lillie Addams and Munat divorced in 2002, and now split custody.

Yet this three-parent arrangement works, and Stormy Addams' role as stay-at-home mom and ad hoc therapist is clearest, etched in a tattoo of her cradling Sharky that runs down Lillie Addams' entire thigh.

Plans for the future

Autism is everywhere these days -- in People magazine, on Oprah, the presidential campaign trail and YouTube -- but none of this attention, or fresh state and federal money, has reached this family.

Instead, Lillie and Stormy Addams are so desperate that they may move to Colorado, California or Canada, anywhere that promises better support when Sharky's state benefits run out at age 7.

Amid their worry, Sharky makes progress. Over the last year, he learned to use the toilet, ride his Big Wheel, sleep in his own bed and brush his teeth.

To reduce their stress, the family now does yoga together every morning, and his mothers just resumed their only other stress reliever: going to the gym.

His meals and baths, though, are still served cold, and his mother still worries.

That's because Sharky will finish kindergarten this June at the UW's Experimental Education Unit. His parents wanted him to spend another year at the school because he lacks basic skills, such as writing his name, but he has to move on. They haven't been told where.

But Sharky has improved outside special schools and therapy sessions. A year ago, he slipped on his first pair of black ballet slippers.

Now every Thursday inside a North Seattle studio, Sharky glissades alongside his teacher and assumes a classic port de bras, his intense focus intermittently broken by a toothy grin.

"The more time I spend, the more hope I see," Lillie Addams said.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Parents continue to fight for Nick's Law

Parents continue to fight for Nick’s Law

Posted: May 1, 2008 08:44 PM

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

Parents are continuing their battle against health insurance companies to gain coverage for autistic children.

These parents of autistic children are fighting for Nick's Law, legislation that would force insurance companies to cover autism treatments. The bill has passed the state Senate four times and is now is now up for a vote in the House, where representatives are refusing to hear it.

"The concerns and the frustrations we have is we're not having the discussion in the House," Nick's father Wayne Rohde, said.

From one office to the next, parents of autistic children tried to drum up support and get Nick's Law voted on in the House. They went door-to-door, talking to representatives.

"You've had my support all along, wonderful. There wasn't any doubt about it," Jerry Shoemake, (D-District 16), said.

The parents attempted to hit up every representative, including House leadership. They had no luck with House Speaker Chris Benge, but Speaker Pro Tempore Gus Blackwell invited them into his chambers.

Blackwell said an intern is researching autism for him, and he's going through the bill.

"One of the things we have to look at and be able to address is that there are a lot of mandates out there. The more mandates we make, the more people cannot afford insurance," Blackwell said.

Parents of autistic children agree they cannot afford the hefty cost of treatment. Some pay as much as $5,000 a month for treatments, because insurance companies refuse to cover autism.

"We are desperate. Folks are desperate to get the care and treatment that they need for their children," parent Dee Blose said.

These families plan to make their voices heard every day until the House votes, but time is running out. The House has less than a month left in session.

Benge said the House will not hear Nick's Law this session. Some lawmakers insist the cost of health insurance would increase exponentially with the added coverage.

The families plan to continue applying public and political pressure until the legislation passes, even if that takes years.

Autism Families told 'not now' on measure - Tulsa World


Autism families told 'not now' on measure

by: ANGEL RIGGS World Capitol Bureau
5/2/2008 12:00 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A measure that would require insurance companies to cover autism-related medical costs is not expected to be heard in the House this session, despite pleas for its passage from parents of children affected by the disorder.

Several parents who came to the Capitol on Thursday called on House lawmakers to consider the measure known as "Nick's Law" this year, in an effort to stop insurance companies from "discriminating" against children with autism.

"The Senate has passed a version of Nick's Law four times," Wayne Rohde of Edmond said. "Yet the House is refusing to take action."

The measure is named for Rohde's son, Nick.

House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, said Thursday afternoon that "at this point, we don't anticipate bringing the bill up."

He said he recognized that the measure is "very difficult and very emotional" but that mandating coverage would increase costs and make insurance less affordable.

However, many of the parents said the costs eventually would fall to taxpayers.

The "current estimate for future costs in Oklahoma -- if we don't do anything -- is roughly $500 million to $700 million per year," Rohde said.

"And this doesn't count the social and economic costs to the economy for productive parents dropping out of the work force, grandparents and parents liquidating their retirement accounts and having to become totally dependent on taxpayers for their retirement," he said.

Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, said in a prepared statement that House leaders know that the measure would pass on "a straight up or down vote."

"Many of us are committed to continuing this fight for thousands of Oklahoma children and their families," he said.

"One man cannot -- nor should not -- silence the voices of these families, these children and their duly elected representatives."

Last month, the parents crowded into a House committee meeting to express support for the measure, but no one was allowed to speak.

Angel Riggs (405) 528-2465

OK snubs vote on autism mandate

by: Associated Press
5/1/2008 12:00 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Speaker Chris Benge said Thursday he does not plan to schedule a vote on legislation that would require health insurers to cover autistic children, despite pleas from parents that the bill be heard.

Benge, R-Tulsa, said House Republican leaders did not plan to bring the bill up out of concern that the autism mandate would drive up the cost of health insurance policies and make it unaffordable for many Oklahomans. The measure received bipartisan support when it passed the Senate.

"It's not easy to say no to something like this," Benge told reporters after a news conference about a task force that will study growing health care costs and uninsured Oklahomans. The parents of autistic children attended the news conference.

"It's very difficult. It's very emotional," Benge said. But an analysis of the autism mandate indicates it would increase the cost of state employee health insurance by $6 million a year, Benge said. That does not include possible cost increases imposed by private health insurers, he added.

"When we mandate something like this, it increases the cost," the House speaker said. "We don't want to make health insurance unaffordable for Oklahomans."

Parents of autistic children characterized any cost increase as minute and vowed to step up public pressure for the House to give the bill a hearing before lawmakers adjourn at the end of May.

"To protect the insurance industry, we're totally ignoring the taxpayers," said Wayne Rohde of Edmond, whose 10-year-old son, Nick Rohde, suffers from autism. The autism mandate bill originally passed by the Senate was dubbed "Nick┬Ás Law."

Rohde said House GOP leaders do not understand that refusing to require health insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autistic children places the burden of caring for them on taxpayers.

"It's totally irresponsible to put all the pressure on the taxpayers and on the school districts for care," Rohde said.

The Senate author of Nick's Law, Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, accused Benge and House Republican leaders of "turning their back on Oklahoma's autistic children and their families."

"They deserve a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives," Gumm said. "One man cannot, nor should not, silence the voices of these families, these children and their duly elected representatives.

"Many of us are committed to continuing this fight for thousands of Oklahoma children and their families."

To read more of the article, click here