BY JULIE BISBEE
Published: February 27, 2009
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The Republican-led Senate is protecting insurance companies and ignoring important issues for Oklahoma families, Senate Democrats said Thursday.
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, called Democrats’ comments "over the top.”
Four weeks into the legislative session, Democrats said the Republican leadership refused to hear bills that would affect the health insurance industry and help families. Republicans hold a 26-22 majority in the Senate.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a rule that required a financial impact statement with all bills that would increase required coverage insurance companies must provide.
Democrats said many bills meant to help families were not heard in committee and won’t be debated on the Senate floor. One of those bills is "Nick’s Law,” which would require insurance companies to cover treatment for autism.
"For whatever reason, they can’t live up to their pro-family rhetoric. Talk’s cheap in this business,” said Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, who authored Nick’s Law. "There are families out there who are being torn asunder by the challenges brought on them because they have a child with autism.”
Earlier in the session, a House committee heard the bill and voted it down. Under House rules, the measure can’t be taken up again for two years.
Another bill that didn’t get heard was Sen. Andrew Rice’s bill that would require insurance companies to cover people who choose experimental treatments. The Oklahoma City Democrat said the bill wasn’t heard in committee, but has been attached to a bill that will be heard by the full Senate.
"Why is it they’re afraid to allow their members vote on legislation that polling shows is very popular?” Rice said. "Why not let it come up to the light of day and let everybody have an up or down vote?”
Insurance companies are not without fault, but the Democrats are just doing the bidding of trial lawyers, Coffee said.
"We’ve all had experiences with insurance companies where we know they’ve abused their authority and power, and I think they ought to be held accountable for that,” Coffee said. "At the same time, I wish the Democrats would be honest about the fact that they’ve become shills for the trial lawyer community.”