Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oklahoma autism issue heats up

The Oklahoman : In Brief
Published: January 8, 2009

Autism issue heats up
It hasn’t taken long for one of the heated issues during last year’s legislative session — whether insurers should pay for the treatment of autistic children — to generate contrasting information. Such an autism mandate was presented last year in Senate Bill 1537. Last year’s measure is identical to SB 1 filed for the session that begins Feb. 2. Here’s the latest on the issue:

House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, released a study Wednesday, a day after legislators met to organize, that shows the costs of an autism insurance mandate would lead to at least a 7.8 percent increase in rates for insured Oklahomans. The report, prepared by an analyst, used jointly by the House and Senate, shows the increase could be as high as 19.8 percent, Benge said.

Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, who filed both bills, said the increase suggested in the study has not been experienced in any state requiring coverage. Gumm said a news release accompanying the study contains at least one factual inaccuracy relating to Texas’ law ending insurance discrimination against autistic children. He said it is misleading to suggest an insurance company increased "policy holder costs” by $379 per month: That is the amount of claims paid out on behalf of families benefiting from Texas’ law, Gumm said.

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