by: BARBARA HOBEROCK
Tulsa World Capitol Bureau
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
2/25/2009 9:35:09 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY — Democratic senators are questioning why insurance companies can cover the treatment of erectile dysfunction and not autism.
The 22 Senate Democrats on Wednesday asked a state agency to determine how much could be saved if the Legislature banned insurance companies that don’t cover autism from covering erectile dysfunction.
The request was sent to Bill W. Crain, administrator of the Oklahoma State Education Employees Group Insurance Board.
“We have been told by Republicans that it is not fair for those who do not have autism to have to pay for coverage for those who do,” said Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa. “Why is it fair for those who do not suffer from erectile dysfunction to pay for those who do in the form of higher premiums? I would think most Oklahomans would rather have their premiums cover children with autism, rather than people with erectile dysfunction.”
The state does not mandate coverage for erectile dysfunction but does mandate prostrate screenings and exams, said Amber England, a spokeswoman for Senate Democrats.
“We know insurance companies cover the treatment of erectile dysfunction,” England said.
A bill to require insurance companies to cover autism died in the House and can’t be revived for two years. A similar measure did not get a hearing in the Senate.
Adelson said Senate Democrats could amend a bill to ban insurance companies from covering the treatment of erectile dysfunction if they don’t cover autism.
Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, said he has prepared two other amendments intended to help families of children with autism.
One would ban insurance companies that don’t provide autism coverage from receiving state incentives, such as tax credits for creating jobs, Gumm said.
Another would make the state’s health insurance “high-risk pool” cover autism, Gumm said. The high-risk pool is for those who can’t get insurance anywhere else, he said.