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.

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