Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cost of Autism Mandate Projected in Reports

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

Posted: May 20, 2009

Click here to link to the video

Nick Rohde, for whom the bill Nick's Law was named, learns new skills during a therapy session. It costs his family $1,000 each week for the therapy.

Supporters of Nick's Law argue the report requested by the House of Representatives is inaccurate and misleading to lawmakers.

Nick's father and autism advocate, Wayne Rohde, says he'll continue to fight for an autism mandate in Oklahoma.

The battle continues at the Capitol, but supporters of Nick's Law say if the bill doesn't pass this session, they'll keep trying.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The debate surrounding insurance coverage for autism continues each legislative season, spurred on by reports projecting vastly different increases in health insurance premiums.

A bill called Nick's Law would force insurance companies to cover autism treatments and therapies. Opponents of the bill claim health insurance premiums will skyrocket, but supporters don't agree.

The Rohde family dishes out $1,000 a week, a high price to pay. That's the only option since their health insurance does not cover autism treatments or therapy for Nick, whom the bill is named after.

"Like other families, we spend a lot of money out-of-pocket, our pocket, and it gets difficult," Nick's father Wayne Rohde said.

Nick's father Wayne Rohde and Senator Jay Paul Gumm (D-District 6) have fought for the bill for two legislative sessions, unsuccessfully.

"Ultimately, the payoff is huge," Senator Gumm said. "There's a human payoff, in that these children have a chance to have a full and happy life as an adult."

At the center of the resistance against Nick's Law is how much it may raise insurance premiums.

Supporters point to a study which finds it could increase rates from .5 percent, or less than $2 each month, up to 1.5 percent.

Other states have experienced rate increases, which could mirror the potential increases Oklahoma would experience if Nick's Law is passed.

Opposing Reports for Oklahoma:

Reports % of Projected Increase

Opponent Report (Conducted by Thomas Cummins) up to 19.8%

Supporter Report (Conducted by State Employees Insurance Company up to 1%

Experienced Rate Increases in Other States with Autism Mandate:

State Rate of Increase Experienced

Arizona .55%

Pennsylvania $1 per member, per month

Louisiana $.74-$.93 per member, per month

The Council for Affordable Health Insurance projects autism mandates increase health insurance permiums by 1 percent.

Having the information from other states presented to them, Nick Law's supporters question the integrity of the study which reported Oklahoma would experience an 8 to 20 percent increase.

Speaker of the House Chris Benge stands behind the report, releasing the following statement:

"This report, unfortunately, confirms that adding this autism insurance mandate does in fact increase the cost of insurance and could lead to more Oklahoma families being forced to drop coverage."

Speaker Pro Tempore Kris Steele also supports the findings, but Nick's Law supporters want to know why their report calculates a much higher increase in premium costs.

"Each state is unique and the population of people that live in each state is unique and in Oklahoma, again we have the fourth highest number of uninsured and that contributes to what this would cost to the people who do have insurance," Representative Steele said.

Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, the author of Nick's Law, couldn't disagree more.

"It's a very, very small cost," Senator Gumm said. "Less than a cup of coffee a month for most premium payers."

Thomas Cummins, the actuary who conducted the study for the House of Representatives, believes his calculations are accurate.

Wayne Rohde, Nick's father, filed a complaint against him with the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline. The board dismissed the complaint, claiming Cummins did not violate the Code of Professional Conduct.

Ten states have laws similar to Nick's Law.

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