Democrats try hard line on autism treatment coverage
by Janice Francis-Smith
The Journal Record February 26, 2009
OKLAHOMA CITY – No Viagra without autism coverage. That was the new rallying cry taken up by Senate Democrats on Wednesday. Insurance companies that do not offer coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorders should be prohibited from providing coverage for treatment of erectile dysfunction, said the Democrat leadership in the state Senate.
“We think it’s grossly unfair that insurance companies will cover something like ED but they’re not willing to cover autism treatments,” said Senate Democratic Leader, Sen. Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee.
All 22 Democrat senators signed a Feb. 25 letter asking the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board to prepare a financial impact statement and cost-savings analysis for a proposal to prohibit insurance companies from offering erectile dysfunction benefits without also offering autism benefits.
No legislation has been filed regarding the matter, said Laster, but lawmakers are within their authority to ask for the study.
“You can’t get it if you don’t ask,” said Laster.
The letter also asks the Insurance Board to explain the methodology used to make their determination. Laster said he didn’t know how soon the board would be able to conclude the study.
Laster said Senate Democrats have been informed that many health insurance providers cover erectile dysfunction treatment. National studies published by industry analysts estimated that private employer health plans cover between 40 percent and 70 percent of prescriptions for erectile dysfunction, usually if the ED results from a documented medical condition. In 2005, federal administrators announced the Medicare prescription drug benefit would cover impotence drugs.
Senate Democrats have a press conference planned for Thursday to accuse the Republican majority of “using their new power to protect insurance companies,” according to a media advisory for the event. Though the Republican majority has already defeated legislation to require health insurance companies to cover autism treatments, effectively putting the issue to rest for this year’s session and next year’s as well, Senate Democrats say they plan to use the amendment process to bring insurance reform to a vote on the Senate floor.