Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Help Needed - Tulsa World Editorial

Help needed by: World's Editorial Writers

Let's cover autism

Perhaps it is symbolic that the first bill filed in anticipation of the upcoming Oklahoma legislative session is a Senate bill that would require insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism in children. Senate Bill 1 is entitled "Nick's Law," and is named for 11-year-old Nick Rohde of Edmond, who suffers from autism. Wayne Rohde, Nick's father, tried valiantly last session to get the measure out of a House committee only to be blocked at every turn. The bill, authored by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, again will face stiff opposition from insurance interests who claim it would raise rates.

Isn't it instructive, however, that other states have enacted similar legislation with bipartisan support? The Republican House members who so stridently opposed the measure should look at the facts. The number of children with autism now exceeds the number of children with cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. This is a real disorder, and families deserve all the support they can get.

It has been shown that intensive behavioral interventions, done early, can stop or even reverse some of the significant impairments related to autism. "These behavioral interventions are not experimental. Reports show that children who receive early, intensive behavioral treatment make substantial, sustained gains in IQ, language, academic performance and adaptive behavior. Unfortunately, insurance companies in Oklahoma are not required to provide coverage for these medically necessary interventions," said Broken Arrow resident Janet Borden, who discussed the subject in a well-reasoned and well-informed letter to the Tulsa World in June.

Former state Rep. Ron Peterson and House Speaker Chris Benge do not favor insurance mandates. Neither do we in some instances. But by forcing thousands of insured families to seek coverage for autism in the form of state services, mostly school-based, we believe legislators indeed are falling in with big insurance and against the interests of children with disabilities, the most vulnerable members of our society. For a change let's be progressive and humane and offer these families the help they deserve.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Legislature should take action on autism bill - Enid Eagle Editorial

Legislature should take action on autism bill

November 22, 2008 12:19 am—

A bill that would require insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism in children has been filed for the 2009 legislative session. A similar bill filed last year didn’t make it out of committee.We’d like to see the Oklahoma State Legislature consider this bill, known as “Nick’s Law” and named after 11-year-old Edmond boy Nick Rohde, who suffers from autism.Right now insurance companies aren’t required to cover children with autism.

Families with autistic children often have to spend thousands of dollars in therapy for their children, and some children don’t receive the kind of therapy that can help them because their families simply can’t afford it. The Oklahoma measure has received support; however, it was stopped in the House of Representatives last year. It’s time for Oklahoma to take up some kind of action on autism insurance.

Other states have enacted autism insurance legislation. It’s passed in Louisiana and Florida. And in Illinois, the governor is expected to sign a bill that would require insurers to cover autism treatment up to $36,000 a year until a patient turns 21.Latest statistics show one in 150 children born in the United States will have some kind of autism.

More and better diagnoses of autism mean more families are facing the challenge of autism, but have little recourse in getting their children necessary help. Oklahoma legislators have many states to emulate when it comes to coming up with some kind of insurance protection for autism. It’s time they make the effort and get something done on behalf of these families.
Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Senate Bill 1 - Nick's Law KSBI TV

Senate Bill 1 - Nick's Law
Friday, November 21, 2008; Posted: 4:12 p.m. (CDT)
Democratic Senator Jay Paul Gumm is trying to pass "Nick's Law" again this year.

The bill would require insurance companies to cover autism diagnosis and treatment.

Senate Bill 1 is named for Nick Rohde. He's an 11-year-old from Edmond who suffers from autism.

His father, Wayne Rohde, lobbied for the bill last year but it didn't pass a house committee.

He has higher hopes for this year.
Rohde says, "The elections did go significantly to the republicans. It was the republican house leadership that stopped this legislation last year."

He goes on to say, "But I'm hopeful they will do the right thing and take a very serious look at this and allow this type of legislation to go forward."

Rohde says similar legislation has been adopted in other states.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

“Nick’s Law” will be “Senate Bill 1” for 2009 Session

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

November 20, 2008

Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Durant Office: (580) 924-4717
Mobile : (580) 920-6990

“Nick’s Law” will be “Senate Bill 1” for 2009 Session
(For digital audio, go to and select “News”)

OKLAHOMA CITY – The first Senate bill filed for the upcoming legislative session is “Nick’s Law.” Senator Jay Paul Gumm is the principal author of Senate Bill 1, which would require insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism in children.
Gumm, a Democrat from Durant, first filed the bill in 2008. The measure won bipartisan support in the Senate, but it was stopped by a small group of Republican leaders in the House of Representatives. Gumm said then he would renew his fight for the bill, which he says is critical for children all over Oklahoma.
“Children with autism who do not receive therapy can be virtually cut off from the world for the rest of their lives,” he said. “The real tragedy is we know for a fact therapy can save them from that fate – unfortunately, thousands of Oklahoma children are denied treatment by insurance companies. This is a health issue and it is a moral issue.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every 150 American children will be diagnosed with autism, a bio-neurological condition that appears in early childhood and impacts the ability to communicate and interact with others. While medical science has yet to determine the exact cause or cure, treatment has been proven to significantly improve outcomes.
Republicans and Democrats across the country have joined hands to enact autism insurance legislation like “Nick’s Law.” In July, Louisiana ’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal – one of the GOP’s “rising stars” – signed autism legislation that was sponsored by a Republican state representative from Baton Rouge .
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, another high-profile Republican governor, signed that state’s autism bill in June – a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature.
Also, in Pennsylvania, Republican House Speaker Dennis O’Brien championed a measure – which passed the House unanimously and a Republican-controlled state Senate 49-1 – that will allow parents of autistic children to pay for behavioral therapy and related services with private health insurance.
“In state-after-state, bills requiring insurance to cover autism diagnosis and treatment are crossing the partisan divide,” Gumm said. “Several Republicans state representatives are already on record saying they will support the bill. Now, it is time for their leadership to join GOP lawmakers and governors across the nation and do the right thing for these families.”
Gumm’s legislation is named for 11-year-old Nick Rohde of Edmond , who suffers from autism. His father, Wayne Rohde, and other parents of autistic children spent, countless hours at the Capitol last year winning support for the bill. Earlier this fall, “Nick’s Law” was named the top 2009 legislative priority for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
“House Republican leaders have an amazing opportunity to become heroes by passing this bill, and no one will sing their praises louder than I will,” Gumm said. “All they have to do is live up to their ‘family values’ rhetoric and put the lives of these children ahead of insurance company profits.
“For just about every other Oklahoman, this is an easy choice.”

Insurers make pitch for health coverage mandate

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer Kevin Freking, Associated Press Writer Wed Nov 19, 3:30 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The health insurance industry said Wednesday it will support a national health care overhaul that requires them to accept all customers, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions — but in return it wants lawmakers to mandate that everyone buy coverage.

Lawmakers have signaled their intent to craft health care legislation early next year, and the insurance industry's support would make passage easier. That legislation is expected to closely track the proposals of President-elect Barack Obama. However, Obama separated himself from his Democratic challengers by opposing an individual mandate for adults to buy health insurance.
More lawmakers may agree to a mandate if it means the insurance industry will back those efforts. They'll remember it was the industry's opposition 15 years ago that helped scuttle former President Clinton's health plan.

The board of directors for America's Health Insurance Plans agreed to the trade-off Monday night. The board endorsed the proposal after a series of hearings in various states.
"We hope this will be a contribution to help members of Congress fashion their proposal," said Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive officer of the trade group. "We're going to provide all the technical background that we have assembled, all the experience we've assembled at the state level, and we're going to work very hard with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. We want to make sure that whatever reforms are advanced, no one falls through the cracks."

Obama's health plan calls for a health insurance exchange, a sort of government-run shopping center where customers could go to select from private plans or a plan administered by the federal government. Any insurer that wants to participate in that exchange must accept all customers regardless of pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.

Insurers will want to participate in the exchange because government subsidies will make it easier for millions of people to buy coverage from them. But the insurers say experience in the states shows the coverage guarantee often makes it harder for people to find coverage. That's because insurers raised premiums to meet the expense of covering all applicants with chronic health conditions.

"They ended up making the problem much worse," Ignagni said of the state efforts. "The data is clear about the need to have everyone part of the system."

Analysts say Massachusetts is an example where the coverage guarantee has worked well, but it's also a state that requires everyone to buy health coverage or suffer a tax penalty.
Some key Democratic lawmakers have already expressed support for an individual mandate. The concept was a centerpiece of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan. It was also part of the blueprint offered last week by Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Chris Jennings, senior health care adviser in the White House during the Clinton years, said it remains to be seen whether the industry will support other key components of health care reform. Nevertheless, he called it an important contribution to the coming debate.
"It sends the signal that broad health reform can happen," Jennings said. "There are so many in Washington who are the gloom and doom prophesiers who believe it's impossible."
However, Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group, called the insurers' position self-serving.

"If consumer's can't afford coverage or refuse to buy it, they'll face tax penalties. Turning the U.S. government into a collection agency for for-profit health insurers is not universal health care, its full employment for HMO executives," said Jerry Flanagan, the group's health care policy director.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Training in autism offered to officials

Training in autism offered to officials
By Staff Reports 11/7/2008

The Tulsa Autism Foundation will present free training for area first responders about dealing with people with autism during the performance of their jobs. The training features safety expert Dennis Debbaudt and will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at Tulsa Technology Center's Riverside Campus, 801 E. 91st St.

Debbaudt is the father of a young man with autism and is a professional investigator and law enforcement trainer. Research indicates that people with developmental disabilities are about seven times more likely than others to come into contact with police. Law enforcement officers, school resource officers, fire rescue and public safety workers, emergency medical response teams, emergency room workers, 911 dispatchers and criminal justice agency personnel are invited to take part in the training, which is a Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training accreditation course.

An additional session for families, teachers and other interested professionals will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at the same site. For more information or to preregister, call the Tulsa Autism Foundation at 502-4823 or go online to tulsa

Faught, McPeak re-elected to state House

Editor's Note. We congratulate Rep Faught on his victory. We hope that he will now help to work for passage of Nick's Law. We also congratulate Eugene Blankenship on a courageous campaign to speak for the children and adults with autism.

Faught, McPeak re-elected to state House
By Liz McMahanAssistant City Editor

November 05, 2008 02:19 am— Republican George Faught won his second term in the state House of Representatives Tuesday, this time by a bigger margin than two years ago.He won the District 14 race against Democrat Eugene Blankenship by more than 1,400 votes. Two years ago, Faught won by 670 votes over challenger Jeff Potts.“It seems like this race, in a lot of ways, was tougher than last time,” Faught told a group of more than 100 who had gathered at his victory party in Muskogee’s 7th and 8th Grade Center’s media center. Faught pledged to his supporters that he will not become a professional politician but will stay in touch with his people.“We’re still going to be who we are because that’s who we are,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jerry McPeak declared victory early in the evening in his District 13 race against Republican Debbie Lienhart. With McPeak taking about 70 percent of the vote, that race was never a contest during the evening.Speaking at the Democrat watch party at the Muskogee Fairgrounds, McPeak said he was both flattered and humbled by his win. “To win by this kind of margin, we had to get Republican votes as well as Democrats; we had to get city votes as well as rural ones,” McPeak said.While both McPeak and Faught savored their victories, both also started looking toward the next legislative session, saying it is filled with both challenges and opportunities.

McPeak said many of the challenges will come in the area of lower state revenues. While lower fuel prices are good for consumers, lower oil prices are bad for the state economy, he said.However, the state also is poised for great opportunity with its wind and other energy resources, McPeak said. Muskogee is especially well positioned to turn these challenges into opportunities with its access to transportation, especially navigation.

Faught also said Muskogee is well positioned for the future because of its port. Oklahoma should attract new business with its natural resources and low cost of living.He said he hopes the state Legislature will come together to address such issues as worker’s compensation reform and tort reform.

Blankenship said he congratulated Faught on the win. He said it was a good campaign and he hopes it drew Faught’s attention to some areas that need to be addressed.Blankenship said this was his first venture into politics and “This is not the end of a political career for me.”
Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

Name game: Senate challenger almost pulls it off

The Oklahoman Editorial
Published: November 7, 2008
Jim Reynolds, Republican state senator from Oklahoma City, won re-election this week to his third and final term — but just barely. Reynolds’ 13,826 votes were a mere 159 more than his challenger, David Boren.

That’s right, David Boren. Not the David Boren — the University of Oklahoma president, former governor and U.S. senator, father of U.S. Rep. Dan Boren — but the psychiatric nurse from Moore who had never run for public office.

Consider that when Reynolds first won election eight years ago, he beat an incumbent Democrat who had raised about five times as much money. Then in 2004, Reynolds beat his challenger with 57 percent of the vote. Yet this time, despite a big edge in fundraising and a solid record at the Capitol, he almost lost.

In a story in The Oklahoman last month, Boren said he decided to run after the Legislature failed to pass a law that would have mandated insurance coverage for autistic children. He said he wanted Oklahoma to be a leader in renewable energy and that he was concerned about mental health issues.

Little more was heard from him during the campaign. Much of the money he raised arrived in the final few weeks and came largely from attorneys and Democratic political action committees. One of those PACS funded last-minute attack ads against Reynolds, whose conservative record has been a good fit with District 43 constituents for eight years.

This time he really had to sweat. What’s in a name? Jim Reynolds might tell you plenty.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Remember those with autism - Edmond Sun OP/Ed

Published: November 03, 2008 11:19 pm
Remember those with autism

To the Editor:As elections grow near, we would like to thank the thousands who have fought to generate awareness of a disease that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, affects one out of every 150 children. That disease is called autism.

When everyone goes to the polls, keep in mind that according to actuarial studies, the cost for insurance coverage for autism in Oklahoma only would raise premiums by less than $2 per month, if at all.

Think about families spending all their retirements, their parent’s retirements and going bankrupt to pay for a disease that affects their children and is more prevalent than all pediatric cancers, AIDS and diabetes combined.

Lastly think about something one of our Republican House leaders said: “… why should we help these children when they are only going to end up in institutions ….” Then think how you would vote if Republican House leadership was referring to your child.

Then thank God, if they weren’t.

Robyne and Wayne Rohde, Edmond