Monday, January 5, 2009

Don’t shortchange Nick’s Law

The Muskogee Phoenix
January 04, 2009 03:53 pm—

An insurance company’s intention to offer coverage for austistic children should not stop efforts to include coverage for autism by all companies.Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma said last week that it will offer “benefit enhancements that will include evaluation and management procedures and speech, physical and occupational therapies” starting in 2010.

That may seem to be a welcome move by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, but that does not ensure that all insurance companies will follow suit. In fact, the benefit appears to be an effort to placate those pushing for mandatory coverage of autism.

Last year, Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, filed Senate Bill 1, referred to as Nick’s Law, named for an Edmond child with autism. Nick’s Law would have mandated coverage. The Legislature failed to approve it because many legislators, and the insurance industry, feared it would raise insurance costs for consumers and hurt the insurance industry’s profits.

It probably will to some extent, but with cases of autism on the rise, the inability of parents to receive coverage for their children is creating economic hardships for those families that result in social and health care crises for the entire state. Those crises won’t be answered by one insurance company offering coverage.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield said last year’s defeat of Nick’s Law gave “the market time to work.” The market has had years to work, and it hasn’t. It has chosen to delay and complain. Gumm has introduced Nick’s Law again, and legislators should approve it this time.

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