Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Proponents of autism coverage dealt a setback

Tulsa World
Published: 4/22/2009

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OKLAHOMA CITY — An amendment to a bill that would have offered insurance to children with autism has been deleted, dashing the hopes of autism coverage advocates.

The Senate last week approved an amendment to a House bill that would have included coverage under the Oklahoma Health Insurance High Risk Pool, 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 to evaluate and diagnose autism spectrum disorders. The bills went to a joint conference committee, which sent one bill to the Senate for approval. There, 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 had pushed for health insurance coverage for children with autism in a bill dubbed "Nick's Law."

Sen. Ron Justice, the Senate author of the bill, said the measure begins to address treatment of autism in Oklahoma.

"There are very few perfect bills," said Justice, R-Chickasha. "This is a good first step."

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