Lawmaker says families will suffer
BY JULIE BISBEE
Published: April 22, 2009
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An amendment to a bill that would have offered insurance to children with autism has been deleted, dashing the hopes of advocates who had been lobbying for the idea.
Last week, the Senate unanimously approved an amendment to a House bill that would include coverage for children under the Oklahoma Health Insurance High Risk Pool.
The pool was created by the Legislature in 1995 to provide insurance to residents unable to get individual coverage. Participants still pay a premium.
Two bills, one from the House and one from the Senate, sought to create a state license for certified behavior analysts and increase training for therapists who would evaluate and diagnose autism-spectrum disorders.
Because there were two versions of the bill, it went to conference committee of House and Senate members. When the bill was sent back to the Senate for approval, an amendment to offer insurance was removed.
"What the Senate did is just flat wrong,” Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, said after the vote.
Gumm, who has pushed for health insurance coverage for children with autism in a bill dubbed "Nick’s Law,” said without insurance, many families won’t be able to afford treatment from the newly certified therapists.
"This bill has done nothing to ease the pressure on the families,” Gumm said. "This bill is for folks who stood up and said ‘absolutely not’ to Nick’s Law to be able to say, ‘I did something.’”
Sen. Ron Justice, the Senate author of the bill, said the measure begins to address treatment of autism in Oklahoma.
The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 40-6.