Tuesday, April 28, 2009

State Dems Send Message

Submitted by dochoc on Tue, 2009-04-28 19:05

Most Oklahoma House Democrats showed real political spunk Monday when they walked out on Republicans after the GOP leadership refused to consider legislation that would mandate insurance companies pay for medical costs associated with autism.

State Rep. Joe Dorman, pictured right, a Rush Springs Democrat, used the word “totalitarian,“ referring to the GOP’s use of parliamentary procedures to deny a vote on the autism issue, and 40 House Democrats walked out of the chamber in a show of solidarity and protest. While the move didn’t budge Republicans, it did send a clear, powerful message that should be repeated often.

This is the message: Democrats continue to work on common sense and important “people” issues such as health care reform as Republicans attempt to push through dead-end cultural wedge issues and ideological-driven legislation, such as criminalizing embryonic stem cell research in the state or establishing a Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol. The GOP’s legislative agenda continues to give the state bad press on a national level.

The walkout also sheds light on how the GOP House majority is shutting down important debate on those critical issues facing Oklahomans that a majority of Democrats want to address and solve.

Democrats have been pushing Nick’s Law for two years now. The law would require health insurance companies in Oklahoma to cover the diagnosis and treatment for autism. The law carries the name of an 11-year-old Edmond by who has the condition.

The Republicans contends Nick’s Law could increase overall health insurance premiums, but Democrats argue there is no definitive proof this will happen and besides it’s an issue of medical urgency.

The GOP, instead, passed what some contend is a meaningless bill that would regulate behavioral analysts and increase training for autism therapists, which won’t matter much if the professionals can’t make money through basic health insurance coverage. The GOP bill was supported by a small number of Democrats who didn’t leave the chamber. This was after state Rep. Mike Brown, a Tahlequah Democrat, offered an amendment to the GOP bill that would have required insurance companies cover autism treatments.

Essentially, the Republicans make it a sick-versus-healthy issue based on the profits or what a recent editorial in The Oklahoman called “solvency” of health insurance companies. Their argument is that business profits/solvency for insurance companies trump personal health care needs. The Democrats make it a basic issue of human suffering and medical fairness. Under their argument, parents should be able to seek and find decent care for their autistic children without literally going bankrupt.

The GOP, or the so-called “family values” party, wanders in the philosophical darkness of denying children health care in Oklahoma, but outside the state a growing national majority long ago figured out the Republicans have a huge idea deficit. The state, as I’ve long contended, is now the junkyard or museum for dead GOP ideologies, which support corporate profits over people’s access to health care and religious intrusion in our lives.

Maybe more legislative Democratic walkouts can help bring about political change in Oklahoma. What can it hurt?

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