Saturday, March 7, 2009

Put autism in high risk pool

Muskogee Phoenix Newspaper

March 07, 2009 04:56 pm

Health insurance priorities are definitely mixed up when it comes to autism.

Recently, all 22 state Democratic senators asked for a cost-savings analysis if a law is passed barring insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction.

The 22 senators are upset, as they should be, that ED often is provided coverage by insurance companies, but families with autistic children were not able to receive coverage for that malady.

In the last two years, supporters pressing for mandatory coverage of autism by insurance companies have not been able to get a bill out of legislative committees because of Republican opposition. The state GOP claim is that the cost of covering autism would increase all premiums significantly.

Without doubt, premiums would increase, but the alternative is autistic children not receiving the care they need or families without coverage taxing the health care system through indigent care. Either way, there is a public cost.

And if it’s important that middle-aged and older men are able to have sex, then it’s definitely important that young children receive treatment that will help them function in society.

The measure passed earlier this year by the Legislature to increase the number of trained autism therapists in the state does nothing to help families if they cannot afford to take their children to the therapists.

Again, as we and others have said before, as long as insurance companies deny coverage for many illnesses, they are managing risk, not providing insurance. They only look for profit, not to provide a service to customers.

If the Legislature cannot force insurance companies to cover autism — and only one has shown a willingness to do that — then we fully support the efforts of Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, to add autism coverage to the state’s High Rsk Insurance Pool.
That is not the ideal situation for Oklahoma families with autistic children, but it’s better than the alternative they face.

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