Brown Skeptical on Fate of ‘Nick’s Law’
Oklahoma City (January 30, 2009) State Capitol – The House of Representatives will take up autism legislation in one of the first committee meetings of the session, but one bill’s House author today expressed skepticism over his bill’s chances at receiving a full vote.
Democratic Floor Leader Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, stated that the anticipated hearing for HB1312, or “Nick’s Law,” in committee on Tuesday is “a grudging shuffle in the direction of fairness,” brought on only by pressure Republican leadership has felt from families across the state.
“Last year this bill wasn’t even heard in committee, so sure – any movement is progress. Unfortunately, the Republicans have already made up their minds to kill this bill before they’ve heard it,” Brown stated.
“It’s regrettable that the people most hurt if this bill isn’t put to a full vote on the House floor are the families of autistic children. The Republicans claim to sympathize with the plight of these families, but how sympathetic can they be if they won’t respond to their one request?”
If passed, Nick’s Law will provide equity in health insurance coverage for parents of children with autism. Currently, many families who have private insurance must pay out of their pocket for diagnosis and treatment because several insurance companies refuse to cover expenses related to autism.
Republicans have argued that requiring autism coverage would have a burdensome fiscal impact. However, a study released this week from Oklahoma State Education Employees Group Insurance Board underscores that the fiscal impact would be minimal – affecting average insurance premiums by no more than one percent.
“There’s no reason now not to support Nick’s Law. The benefit greatly outweighs the cost,” stated Brown.
Brown said that the families he has spoken with are “grateful for any opportunity to finally make their case that this bill should become law,” but they can also see the writing on the wall.
“I wish I could be more hopeful for the future of Nick’s Law this year, but my Republican colleagues haven’t given me any reason to be optimistic,” added Brown. “I hope I’m wrong. I hope this bill gets a chance for a clean up-or-down vote on the House floor.
“These families deserve it, and these children deserve to have someone speak for them.”