Monday, March 16, 2009

Insurance Mandate Introduced Involving Cancer

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9
Posted: March 16, 2009

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The bill concerning cancer treatments passed the Senate, including 11 republicans.

Senator Ron Justice (R-District 23) says he supports the cancer treatment bill, but chose to vote against Nick's Law.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A state lawmaker offers a plea after one bill passes the Senate and another bill remains a long shot.

Nick's Law which would force health insurance companies to cover autism therapies died on the second day of session. One lawmaker keeps pushing for it, without much luck.

A bill about cancer has supporters of Nick's Law up in arms.

They're upset because many Republicans oppose Nick's Law since it's an insurance mandate and could force up premiums. The same concerns do not seem to exist, however, when it comes to mandates involving cancer.

"If mandates are bad, this should've been bad as well," said Senator Jay Paul Gumm (D-District 6).

Senator Gumm is frustrated since some Republicans voted "yes" on a bill that forces insurance companies to cover chemotherapy pills, yet they turn their heads when it comes to autism coverage.

"It certainly says that we value this malady more then we value the one your children are suffering from," Senator Gumm said.

Wayne Rohde is also shocked. He spends countless hours at the Capitol fighting for insurance coverage of autism therapy for his son Nick, the bill's namesake, and other kids.

"It gives us a little bit of a glimmer of hope if the Senate can pass an insurance mandate maybe this legislature will see to do the right thing for these children," Rohde said.

Eleven Republicans voted "yes" on the chemotherapy pill mandate, including Senator Ron Justice (R-District 23). He said it could give rural Oklahoma more access to health care.

"They could take the medication orally instead of having to do to a hospital a long ways away," said Senator Justice. "That's why I thought it was important to at least take a look at it."

But, Senator Justice opposes forcing insurance companies to cover therapy for autism.

"I am concerned about mandates, I do not like to put mandates on but, I think you have to look at each individual bill on its own merits," Justice said.

Despite the resistance, the fight for Nick's Law will continue. Supporters believe they'll eventually prevail.

"We're going to be growing in numbers every year and we're gonna be louder and louder, we're not going to go away," Rohde said.

The cancer mandate still has a long road ahead. It must pass through the House and then back to the Senate for final approval.

Republican leadership who voted against the cancer bill said they oppose all insurance mandates, arguing they'll raise the cost of health insurance.

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