Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Senate Breathes Life into Autism Insurance Coverage Proposal

The State of Oklahoma
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties

April 14, 2009

Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Durant Office: (580) 924-2221
Mobile: (580) 920-6990

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate breathed life into a proposal to provide insurance coverage for children with autism.

An amendment was attached to House Bill 2027, House leadership’s bill to train more therapists. The amendment, enacted without debate, would require the Oklahoma Health Insurance High Risk Pool (OHRP) to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism consistent with what has become known as “Nick’s Law.”

“Just like there is nothing wrong with a pack of shingles at a construction site, there is nothing wrong with the original bill,” said Senator Jay Paul Gumm, a Democrat from Durant who originally sponsored autism insurance legislation. “But you cannot put on the shingles before you pour the foundation.

“The Senate, today, poured the foundation and created comprehensive bill that offers a glimmer of hope to families struggling to care for their children with autism.”
The Oklahoma Health Insurance High Risk Pool was created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1995 to provide access to health insurance coverage to all residents of the state who are unable to obtain individual health insurance.

The pool charges premiums for its insurance, just as traditional health insurers do, according to information from the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Premiums could seem high because they are not partially paid by an employer. However, the premiums will be no more than 50 percent above standard health insurance rates.

Because the Pool covers high-risk people, it incurs a higher level of claims than premiums can cover. The insurance industry pays into the pool to make up the difference and help it remain viable.

“The High Risk Pool was designed to be the insurer of last resort,” said Gumm. “It seems to be a perfect compromise between those who oppose a mandate on all insurance companies and those of us who support ending insurance discrimination against children with autism.

“We who have fought for ‘Nick’s Law’ have always been willing to compromise, to find common ground. I believe there is a strong desire to help these families – we simply have to find a comprehensive way that really helps these families rather than simply ease political pressure. The amended bill does just that.”

The bill, with Gumm’s amendment, was approved by the Senate on a unanimous 48-0 vote. The measure is destined for a conference committee where a final version will be developed.

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