Monday, May 10, 2010

Autistic kids receive fair treatment with new bill

Sen. Sean Burrage
May 10, 2010
Pryor Daily Times

OKLAHOMA CITY — Starting Nov. 1, parents of children with autism will have greater protection when it comes to more fair treatment by insurance companies. Senate Bill 2045 was approved on bipartisan votes in the Senate and the House and has been approved by the governor. The measure includes language that will make certain health insurance companies cover the same illnesses and medical treatment for children with autism as they do for children who do not have that diagnosis.

To be clear, we are not talking about covering diagnosis and treatment of autism itself, although I believe this is something the state can and should do. We’re specifically talking about families that have insurance, regularly pay their premiums, but when a medical condition affects a child with autism, the insurance company refuses to pay for treatment of that condition, even though the medical problem has nothing to do with autism.

We’ve had literally dozens of families complain that insurance companies had routinely denied claims filed on behalf of their children for illnesses and maladies

completely unrelated to the diagnosis of autism. According to the families, their claims were denied because Oklahoma does not require health insurance policies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism, and most insurers will specifically exclude autism.

Another way to put it is this. Two families have the same insurance policy. Both have sons who play a sport. The boy from the first family is hurt playing baseball. The insurance covers the cost of treatment; end of story. But for the second family, if their child is injured playing baseball, the outcome is different. Their medical claims are denied because their son happens to have been diagnosed with autism - even that had nothing at all to do with the getting hurt while playing baseball. With the passage of SB 2045 and the governor’s signature, this lack of insurance parity will no longer be legal in Oklahoma.

Autism continues to be the fastest growing developmental disability in our nation, with as many as one in 110 children impacted by one of the conditions on the autism disorder spectrum. Science still has not determined the cause of autism, but we do know that early diagnosis and access to appropriate therapy and treatment can mean the difference between night and day in helping these children lead fuller lives.

This is the result of hard work and cooperation. The idea began as a bill by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm of Durant, who has pushed for enactment of “Nick’s Law.” While he hasn’t given up on that effort to require coverage for diagnosis and treatment of autism, he came up with this common sense compromise everyone could support, even those who oppose “Nick’s Law.” He worked with Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, who agreed to help get the compromise in a bill.

This is important step - but we have more to do. I still believe our public policy should be stronger and that our state should do a better job of supporting and protecting the rights of families with autistic children, in terms of available services, medical care, and fair treatment by insurance companies.

Thanks again for reading my “Senate Review.” If you have any questions on a
legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing me with your concerns at: Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 529-B State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate. May God bless each of you.

Click here to link to the article.

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