Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sad farewell

Tulsa World

State fails family of autistic child

By World's Editorial Writers
Published: 7/10/2010 2:21 AM
Last Modified: 7/10/2010 5:28 AM

The family that led efforts to force Oklahoma insurance companies to cover autism is leaving the state.

The emotional and financial toll of raising an autistic son without insurance coverage forced Wayne and Robyne Rohde to take their children to Minnesota, where they will be able to get insurance that covers treatment for their 12-year-old son Nick.

For years, the Rohdes have led families lobbying the Legislature for autism coverage mandates. They scored a partial victory this year when the Legislature agreed to a bill that requires insurance companies to cover the same illnesses for autistic children as they do for children without the condition. Previously, families reported that their autistic children were unable to get insurance coverage for things like asthma in their autistic children.

But the parity bill fell far short of the need for the families. Wayne Rohde said the family's cost of analysts, tutors, therapists and medications for their son is nearly $40,000 a year.

Here's a key point about the Rohdes and other families like them: They didn't want a free ride. They wanted to pay their own way in the same fashion that millions of other American families deal with health costs — through insurance.

But the insurance companies simply refused to cover them.

The cost of an insurance mandate is hotly debated. A legislative study says insured Oklahomans' rates could increase nearly 20 percent under an autism mandate. Proponents of Nick's law say the proposal would save about $1 million in human services costs and insurance rates would increase by less than 1 percent.

Whatever the cost of adding autistic children to the insurance pool, one thing is now obvious: There is another real cost to the state for not mandating coverage. Hard-working, loving families like the Rohdes will leave the state or refuse to come here because the state won't allow them to care for their autistic children in a financially viable way.

Opponents of an autism mandate should not rest easy. The remaining families of autistic children will continue their fight for a mandate. The pressure won't go away until the problem does.

To the Rohdes, we say, God bless you and God bless Nick. We hope that you find the help you need in Minnesota, and we regret that Oklahoma turned its back on you.
By World's Editorial Writers

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