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