Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ok House Democrats Welcome Republican Wake-Up to Autism

State of Oklahoma

House of Representatives


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Democratic Floor Leader Mike Brown

Representative Wallace Collins

Representative Ben Sherrer

Contact: Karina Henderson

State Capitol Building, Rm. 548

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

405-521-2711, x819

House Democrats Welcome Republican Wake-up to Autism

Oklahoma City (January 13, 2009) State Capitol – Several members of the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus reacted to today’s press release from Speaker Chris Benge’s office regarding autism.

“My response is, ‘Welcome to the table, Speaker Benge,’” Brown said. “I’m gratified to see that the Speaker is aware of at least some of the challenges Oklahoma families face in seeking care for their autistic children.”

Rep. Wallace Collins, who pushed for the bill known as “Nick’s Law” to be heard in the House last session, also expressed willingness to work with Speaker Benge.

“If Speaker Benge would like to hear more about the legislation that Democrats have proposed to help families of children with autism, we are more than willing to sit down and fill him in on what we’ve been fighting for all this time,” said Collins.

“I’m heartened to hear that House Republicans are interested in increasing training for autism specialists, but what I want to know is, what are they going to do for families who need help now?” Collins added. “Do they expect parents of children with autism in our state to sit back and wait for ‘market forces’ to help their children?”

In today’s release, Speaker Benge noted that in our state alone, “potentially thousands of children” need care for autism and related health issues, but that the Republicans’ proposal is designed to “allow market forces to alleviate the costs of autism services and increase access to care”.

“I’ve always said on this issue that, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ If we provide insurance coverage for autism in our state, then the providers will come to take advantage of it,” Collins noted.

“It strikes me as odd that during last year’s Health Care Reform Task Force, the issue of challenges Oklahoma families face when their insurance won’t cover autism was never addressed,” said Rep. Ben Sherrer. “Even with today’s release, there’s still an elephant in the room – that without insurance coverage for autism and related issues, many families in our state still can’t afford to care for their children.”

In a recent report titled “The Child Advocate,” the Oklahoma Institute on Child Advocacy noted that autism is the “fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.,” and that it is “more common” among children “than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.” Yet many insurance companies refuse to cover care for children with autism.

“It just goes to show there remains an apparent priority to protect the insurance industry over Oklahoma families affected by autism,” Sherrer added.

Brown, for now, remains welcoming to Speaker Benge’s newly found concern for autism.

“I’m not going to ask where Speaker Benge was last year, when a member of his party refused to hear a bill to reform insurance companies’ discriminatory practices against autism. And I’m not going to ask where he was when he rejected pleas from his Democratic colleagues and families of children with autism to consider amendments on the subject. For the moment, I’m just happy that he knows autism is an issue we need to address.”

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