Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bad Medicine : Every one will pay for inaction on autism legislation


...So let's get this straight: The Republican-majority Oklahoma Legislature is seriously discussing a bill that could make it more difficult for regular folk to circulate initiative petitions and get them on the ballot?

The same Oklahoma Legislature that itself placed 10 of 11 referenda on last year's ballot -- most wedge issues designed to ignite turnout among constituencies that tend to favor the GOP majority?

The same Oklahoma Legislature whose Republican members for years huffed and puffed about Democrats "not trusting the voters" to decide important issues?

The same GOP majority Oklahoma Legislature that refused this year to let the voters decide whether insurance companies should be required to cover treatment for children with autism?


All you need to know about what who wields the real power at N.E. 23rd Street and North Lincoln Boulevard in Oklahoma City is this: Big insurance's deep pockets can deftly turn referenda-happy Republicans into a referenda-killing machine.

Oklahoma families crushed by the costs of uninsured treatment for their autistic children have worked vainly for several years to get relief from their lawmakers. But there hasn't been an insurance mandate since Republicans took control of the state House six years ago -- the last one ordered was for mammograms.

And before you start grinding your teeth about "mandates" or "government regulation" or "interfering with free enterprise," remember this: 1 in 100 children is now diagnosed with the malady.

This is a ticking time bomb -- for Oklahoma taxpayers. You see, children treated for autism often can become productive, taxpaying adults. If they are not treated, who do you think will most often end up paying for their adult long-term care and housing? Exactly -- the taxpayers. And the costs are likely to be enormous.

Big insurance feigns poverty, but the truth is, companies are earning record profits. Moreover, there is plenty of evidence that treating children with autism isn't burdensome for these companies that clearly care about one thing and one thing only: their bottom lines.

Already, 21 states have passed legislation that mandates some form of autism treatment for children. Oklahoma lawmakers, meanwhile, play a cost-shifting game -- protecting big insurance (among their biggest campaign donors) and leaving a mountain of future expenses to taxpayers.

Why should current legislators care? They'll be term-limited from office before the you-know-what-hits-the-fan. Future lawmakers can clean up the mess.

What's even more appalling is that Oklahomans overwhelmingly believe a mandate is warranted -- 79.5 percent in a SoonerPoll last spring. In addition, 66.6 percent of the likely voters surveyed statewide said they would favor a state ballot initiative requiring health insurance to cover the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism.

So, Democratic Rep. Mike Brown of Tahlequah introduced legislation this year that would give voters the chance to decide the issue. It looked like the perfect plan: How could the Legislature's Republican majority -- which prattles endlessly about "trusting the voters" -- not trust the voters on this issue?

Initially, Brown's HB 1624 was assigned to the House Insurance Committee. But in late February, it was shifted to the House Rules Committee -- the graveyard for legislation the speaker and powers-that-be want to kill.

Brown says the speaker told him he wanted to let last year's legislatively enacted reforms take full root before considering a statewide vote on the issue. What reforms? Lawmakers approved a measure aimed at increasing the number of health care professionals in Oklahoma with expertise in treating the malady.

It was pure window dressing -- more treatment will be available for those who can't afford it. And what is likely to become of those new autism-care professionals, trained at state taxpayer expense? Most likely will end up practicing in other states that demand insurance companies to cover treatment for autism -- states like all our neighbors: Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Brown hasn't given up. He proposed an amendment to Speaker Kris Steele's HB 2130 that addresses the duties of the Health Care for the Uninsured Board that would mandate autism coverage. It's time, Brown says, for "an honest and open debate about the lifelong consequences of failing to provide these services in crucial developmental years."

"In the end, it's not just the children but also the families who will pay for our inaction on this issue. The emotional turmoil parents face when unable to provide proper medical care for their child is unimaginable -- especially as more studies are released that prove the powerful impact early intervention can have on a child."

You can bet Republican legislative leaders will work to kill this proposal, too. But it only serves to reconfirm their venality -- big insurance mercenaries who are callous to the plight of suffering Oklahoma families and indifferent to the catastrophic costs that will be borne by Oklahoma taxpayers.

Even worse, the state Senate recently approved Senate Joint Resolution 37 that would place a referendum on the ballot aimed at making the initiative petition process even more difficult.

Currently, those seeking to place a measure on the ballot can collect signatures anywhere in the state. Most, as you might guess, focus their efforts in the state's two largest metropolitan areas -- Tulsa and Oklahoma City -- with about two-thirds of the state's population.

Sen. Mike Schulz's plan -- which would be put to a statewide vote if also approved by the House -- would amend the Constitution to require a percentage of the signatures come from each of the state's five congressional districts.

"It's simply to bring some equality to the process," the Altus Republican says.

You can't simply sit in a metro area and gather all the signatures needed to get something on the ballot."

I've long argued that lawmaking-by-initiative is a dicey business. We have representative government for a reason -- we elect and pay (handsomely) proxies to go to the Capitol, study the issues and make their best judgments while we carry out our everyday lives. If we don't like the way our representatives vote, we elect someone else.

As far as I'm concerned, 11 state questions on the ballot last year was way too many. But I find it more than a little ironic that Republicans who were responsible for placing 10 of them on the ballot in 2010 now are working to make it more difficult for non-elected officials to petition their government.

Either you trust the voters or you don't.

--(Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer;

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nick's Law falls short again in the OK Legislature


The City Sentinel
By Wayne Rohde
March 10th, 2011

As the Oklahoma Legislature closes out the first month of this new session, I am concerned that Oklahoma is missing out on a great opportunity to say to the world, to say to this nation, that we rise above politics, we rise above the rhetoric that divides us on some many levels, and tend to the needs of those in our society are the most vulnerable, those with special needs.

For the past several years, the Legislature has seen a surge in the advocacy of parents, medical practitioners, and concerned citizens to pass Nick’s Law, legislation to require insurance companies to provide medical coverage for treatments and therapies that are medically necessary to combat the symptoms of autism.

And for the past several years, the Legislature, instead of discussing and debating the complex issue of insurance coverage for children with autism, have sided with the special interests that control the state capitol, and have continued to turn their backs on the most vulnerable members of our society.

During this session, Speaker Kris Steele, at the last moment, moved HB 1624 out of the House Insurance Committee where it was scheduled to have a public hearing, to the House Rules Committee, where it will die. This action is very typical of the House since we first introduced Nick’s Law in 2008. They find ways to kill the bill instead of allowing the members vote on the bill on the floor of the State House.

But we will not be defeated. We will not turn our backs on our children and we will prevail. The costs are too high if we don’t. Many of our children can be removed from the iron claws of autism and become self sufficient taxpayers of the future. But to continue turning our backs and kicking this problem down the road, the taxpayers will be faced with a large burden of providing state services for these children who will become adults and require around the clock care. It is truly a fiscally conservative approach to address this problem now instead of spending 20 to 30 times the cost in the future.

For those in opposition that often quote that passage of Nick’s Law will only drive up insurance rates in Oklahoma, I have this question. If so, then prove it. Show us the credible economic data that shows that Nick’s Law will drive up insurance rates significantly. I can help you with your research. There is no credible data. Simply put, in the other 23 states that passed similar legislation, there has been no significant increase to premiums.

For those in opposition that Nick’s Law is nothing more than government run health care, please look carefully at the states that implemented this legislation. I will argue that it creates a more efficient free market system after in acting this mandate. Insurance companies will contract with medical providers, creating a demand for qualified therapists and doctors to open up clinics and create hundreds of medical jobs, and provide a greater access to health care for all.

For those in opposition that Nick’s Law will only serve a small number of children, these providers will be able to serve not just those with private health insurance but those with TriCare, SoonerCare, and the self insured.

This is all evident in the states that have passed similar legislation. I will take this evidence as something that can be replicated in Oklahoma. And take a look at our neighboring states, we are surrounded by states that clearly understand this issue and have moved forward to address this epidemic. But Oklahoma seems to continue to lag behind the nation in health care rankings.

Last year, SoonerPoll conducted a statewide poll on if the voters of Oklahoma would support Nick’s Law. In one of the largest favorable outcomes, 79.5% of the voters support Nick’s Law with a surprising 70% of Republicans. This should not be a partisan issue and with this poll, it is clearly has bi-partisan support. The results show that this issue transcends across all demographics of political party, economic divisions of income levels, and religious beliefs.

But our state legislature and now Speaker Steele has decided once again to listen to the special interest groups and lobbyists instead of the voters of Oklahoma. The voters understand the issue and now it is time for the legislature to represent the people of Oklahoma, not the selfish interests. So I call on Speaker Steele to allow Nick’s Law to come to a vote of the people. HB 1624 asks for it and the people of Oklahoma demand it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ark Gov signs autism insurance coverage bill into law

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Gov. Mike Beebe will sign into law a bill requiring insurance companies to cover autism diagnosis and treatment.

There is new support for autistic children in Arkansas. Tuesday, Governor Mike Beebe signed an autism bill into law. It requires most health insurance companies to cover autism diagnoses and treatment for children under 18.

It's a signature with the power to lift a financial weight. Ten-year-old Briar Miller with his mom Dayna were in the center of it all. "I'm glad the law passed we've been trying to pass it for two years," says Briar Miller.

Most major health insurance companies can no longer deny Arkansas families coverage for treatment for children with autism. "I just truly believe that children in Arkansas deserve the same right as children across the United States especially when it was a research proven approach," says Dayna Miller.

Miller estimates she borrowed $100,000 to pay for applied behavior analysis. It's treatment using positive reinforcement recommended by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Miller says for Briar it works. " He went from a nonverbal child, he's in the fifth grade getting straight A's although he brought home a B last week that's we're going to get up," says Miller.

The CDC estimates that 1 in 110 children are diagnosed with autism and that ABA treatment ranges anywhere from 30 to 60 thousand dollars a year.
Veronica Tess Myers says in 1996, when doctors diagnosed her son Alexander with severe to moderate autism.

You definitely feel alone, there's a lot of tears being cried there's a lot of frustration there's a lot of sitting alone trying to figure out what the next step is going to be to help you child to succeed," says Myers.

They told her told her it was either ABA or a group home for life. "And that's the part that breaks my heart that so many families want to help their child and couldn't get therapy," says Miller.

Danya Miller says she was working at a factory when Briar was born. She went back to school and became a speech pathologist to help him and other children with autism. ­estimates that one in 93 boys and one in 345 girls in the state are autistic.

Monday, February 28, 2011

New Hampshire Bill to repeal Autism Coverage

"The lunatics are on the grass" - editor


Rindge lawmaker hopes to reduce what insurance companies have to payBy Dave Eisenstadter
Sentinel Staff
Published: Sunday, February 27, 2011

A local Republican legislator says he is trying to undo insurance regulation passed in the last four years while Democrats were in charge.

House Bill 309, solely sponsored by John B. Hunt of Rindge, would repeal a law requiring insurance companies to pay for early intervention autism spectrum disorder treatment. The law went into effect on Jan. 1; its prime sponsor was Suzanne S. Butcher, a former Democratic representative from Keene.

Meanwhile, families and educators attended an Autism and Asperger’s Expo at Antioch University New England Saturday, where autism support advocates denounced the bill.

Kirsten M. Murphy, director of the N. H. Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders and a parent of two autistic children, said the law mandating early intervention autism therapies has further-reaching implications than simple monetary ones.

Out of all young children identified with autism spectrum disorders and treated using early intervention therapies, 47 percent will enter kindergarten at a level equivalent to their peers, and an additional 40 percent will make significant progress, according to Murphy.

Hunt said legislators could ask insurance companies to give them an idea of the new laws’ effects on premiums.

“Now that we have changed leadership, we have a rare opportunity to re-look at all these mandates and get the insurance companies to tell us how much they really do cost,” said Hunt, formerly chairman of the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, which is hearing the bill.

Hunt said it was appropriate for insurance companies — the businesses regulated by these recently passed laws — to provide information that could enact the repeal of those laws. He did not think the businesses would provide inaccurate or misleading information, he said.

Murphy said the law would save money in the long term.

A 2006 Harvard Study conducted by assistant professor Michael Ganz revealed it can cost about $3.2 million to take care of an autistic person over his or her lifetime. Ninety percent of those costs are incurred during adulthood, according to Murphy.

But if treated with early interventions, those with autism have a good chance at being productive wage-earners and tax payers, Murphy said.

Hunt brought the bill forward because Democrats refused to compromise or listen to Republican concerns, he said.

“When I was chair, we compromised more than they did,” Hunt said.

The legislation targeted by Hunt’s bill affects one third of New Hampshire’s population, Hunt said. The laws only affect state regulated health plans and do not affect Medicare or Medicaid recipients or those insured through large employers.

Those with state-regulated insurance are the most vulnerable to insurance premium increases, according to Hunt.

Hunt’s plan is that by reducing the amount insurers have to cover, insurance premiums will also go down. The bill, however, would not mandate insurance companies to lower their premiums, Hunt said.

Without health insurance companies offering access to such treatments, there is no access to them, Murphy said. Schools are not required to deliver medical treatment.

“I think we always have to be concerned about legislation like this,” Murphy said, referring to House Bill 309. “My hope is the Senate will act as a voice of moderation here.”

Beyond autism diagnosis and treatment, the bill takes aim at half a dozen other coverage requirements, including testing for bone marrow donation, obesity and hearing loss.

Murphy said Saturday’s expo at Antioch provided parents and educators needed information about autism treatment and local resources. Among them are an Autism and Asperger’s support group, which meets the second Wednesday of each month, and an autistic child movement group headed by Antioch assistant professor Christina Devereaux.

Fuller Elementary School staff members Jane C. Trombi and Patti L. Vosteen, who work regularly with students with autism spectrum disorders, agreed that the expo was useful.

“I’ve been to a lot of different presentations and a lot of what I’ve heard today is what I’ve heard before: how every child is different,” Trombi said. “Every child needs a different program.”

For Murphy, getting help through early diagnosis and intervention treatments and through participating in events like the Antioch expo is vital for both parents and educators in dealing with autistic children.

“Parents don’t know what to ask for and schools don’t know what to offer.”

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1432, or

Defining 'Essential' Care

Regulators Move to Specify Coverage Under Health Law; Insurers Seek Flexibility.

WSJ February 28, 2011

Maggie Haslam's five-year-old autistic son, Drew, has undergone intense behavioral, physical and speech therapy that helped him learn to dress himself and communicate such concepts as "over" and "under."

Drew Haslam, 5, is autistic and has received care that may not be covered under the new health law.
.The therapy greatly helped Drew, said Ms. Haslam, a public-relations agent in Silver Spring, Md. But was it essential?

The next big issue for the federal health law as it moves toward implementation is how regulators will define so-called essential benefits—the basic medical services that health plans must cover under the law.

The legislation gives 10 categories of care that plans must provide for customers of the health-insurance exchanges that are launching in 2014. But the law leaves details up to regulators, who are now starting to develop the rules.

Habilitative services, used by such patients as Drew, have become a contentious point in the debate. Unlike rehabilitation, which helps patients recover skills they have lost, habilitation helps patients acquire new skills. Such services can be costly because the process can take years, and insurers haven't typically covered many of them, sometimes labeling them educational or experimental.

The debate over exactly what habilitative services to include in the new rules—and how much of them—exemplifies the challenge of defining what health benefits are truly essential.

This week, insurers and patient groups are expected to face off at a meeting hosted by the Institute of Medicine, which has been charged by the Department of Health and Human Services with making recommendations on defining criteria for deciding what are essential benefits.

Benefits Questions
Here are the 10 general categories of benefits that the health law considers essential, and some services within each that could trigger debate as regulators develop rules governing insurance plans that will be sold on the exchanges:

Ambulatory patient services

-Varicose vein treatment

Emergency services

-Nonemergency care administered in ER


-Total hip replacement

Maternity and newborn care

-Fertility treatments

Mental health and substance-abuse disorders

-Unlimited length of stay in a facility

Prescription drugs

-"Lifestyle" medications such as Viagra

Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices

-Unlimited physical therapy

Laboratory services

-Biometric testing, including genetic markers or DNA analysis

Preventative and wellness services and chronic disease management

-Nutritional counseling

Pediatric services, including oral and vision care


Source: WSJ Research .Lobbying on all categories has been intense, and the institute has received over 330 comments from groups including insurers, patient advocates and medical professionals.

America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group, is emphasizing to policy makers and regulators that costs will rise if insurers have to cover too many specific services, and if they aren't allowed to limit the number of reimbursed services.

Insurers want to keep the categories as broad as possible so they have flexibility in designing benefits packages.

Others, especially in the medical and patient-advocacy communities, are pressing for specifics to be set out and coverage limits to be lifted.

"All of it needs to be spelled out because if it isn't spelled out it will be denied," said Andrew Racine, chief of the pediatrics division at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York. He submitted testimony to the institute on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Habilitative services have been particularly contentious because they can be costly and difficult to define. A three-year-old child who lost speech after a brain injury would require rehabilitation. But a three-year-old child with autism who has never learned to speak would require habilitation, said Marty Ford of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.

In addition to autism, habilitative services could be used to help children with cerebral palsy learn to walk, children with Down syndrome to acquire language skills or people with schizophrenia to learn basic social skills.

A study by consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimated behavioral programs can cost about $60,000 yearly when a child is young, dropping dramatically after that as he or she becomes more independent.

For Drew Haslam's services, the expenses mounted after a state program for infants and toddlers ended and the family's insurance limited their coverage. Ms. Haslam said they spent $20,000 a year on the therapies until the time and expense became overwhelming.

Because treatments can last years, insurers warn that unlimited coverage could push up the prices of policies that will be sold through the insurance exchanges.

"The legislation raises the question: Are we going to have unlimited amounts of physical therapy? That would add certain costs," said Robert McDonough, Aetna Inc.'s head of clinical policy research and development.

Jeffrey Kang, Cigna Corp.'s chief medical officer, who submitted a statement to the Institute of Medicine in January, suggested that many habilitative therapies might not be included in the most basic plan sold on exchanges, known as bronze plans. Instead, he said, they could be covered starting with the silver plans that are the next most expensive.

"What we are suggesting is that we ought to make the minimum to protect the healthy population against catastrophic events," Mr. Kang said.

Insurers say they want the flexibility to design plans for consumers with different needs. "A 25-year-old doesn't think they will need habilitative care, and they need to be able to afford the benefit package they pick," said Virginia Calega, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield's vice president of medical management and policy.

Patient advocates say that consumers shouldn't have to pay extra for habilitative coverage.

"Health care for autism shouldn't be like the sporty option on a car," said Stuart Spielman, senior policy advisor for Autism Speaks, a patient-advocacy organization.

The lowest-level policy should cover all eventualities, said Dr. Racine.

"You don't know if you will need this stuff. That's what insurance is all about."

Write to Avery Johnson at

Friday, February 25, 2011

Trying to Get Nick’s Law on the Ballot

Filed by Michael Cross
February 24, 2011
KOSU Radio

Supporters of legislation to require insurance companies cover children with autism are upset by a move by the State Speaker of the House that they say will kill the bill.

Supporters of Nick’s Law say the House Speaker moved HB 1624 from the Insurance Committee to the Rules Committee in order to stop it from moving forward.

The bill’s author, Representative Mike Brown says the bill which would have put Nick’s Law before voters was expected to get a fair hearing before it was moved.

“We would have been able to present facts from most every other state save I think three or four other states that have not passed legislation such as this that would actually give children coverage with insurance on this issue.”

House Speaker Kris Steele says since it’s going to a vote of the people it belongs in the Rules Committee.

But, he also admits a program to provide more doctors, treatment providers and therapists just started in January.

“I’m in favor of giving those reforms an opportunity to work before we go down the path of pursuing an insurance mandate that in my opinion will increase health insurance costs.”

Representative Brown says if Nick’s Law doesn’t get a hearing than maybe supporters should look into the initiative petition process to bypass the legislature.

New "Nick's Law" bill gets shuffled into legislative "graveyard"

By Andrew W. Griffin

Red Dirt Report, editor

Posted: February 23, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma families with autistic children hit another roadblock this week when they discovered the GOP-led House leadership made a last-minute decision to have renewed discussion of “Nick’s Law” moved from the Insurance Committee to the Rules Committee.

The committee was scheduled to meet on Thursday and folks with autistic children had planned to speak to the committee members before learning of the switch. Now, many are having to regroup and reassess with the knowledge that the deadline to get bills out of committee is next week.

It was in January when Rep. Mike Brown (D-Tahlequah) filed a bill, HB 1624, that would allow voters to decide in the form of a State Question on the ballot as to whether insurance companies would cover cost of treating autism for children 21 and younger.

Brown spoke to Red Dirt Report from his office at the Capitol on Wednesday morning and said that the long-term costs to the state will be “astronomical” if these autistic-affected children aren’t treated appropriately before they become adults.

Brown highlighted the sad story of 7-year-old Savannah Martin an autistic child from Lawton who drowned in a pond on Sunday. Brown said the story about Savannah, featured in The Oklahoman, noted how the girl was going to New York state and receiving treatment as well as getting therapy at the ACI Learning Center in Edmond.

The point Brown was making was that autistic children like Savannah respond to therapy and that more can be done for them in Oklahoma.

“She is one of hundreds of children in Oklahoma receiving some kind of help, while others aren’t,” Brown said, adding, “And the argument that (Nick’s Law) will drive insurance companies out of state is false on its face.”

“Let the people of Oklahoma decide if they want to take care of these children now” or later, Brown said. “There is wide support (of Nick’s Law).”

Discussing this change of legislative venue with Red Dirt Report was Wayne Rohde, the father of Nick Rohde, the autistic boy who inspired “Nick’s Law” a few years ago, and has since moved his family from Oklahoma to Minnesota so Nick could get the treatment he needed when Nick’s Law failed to get legislative support.

“People are disappointed,” Rohde said, joking over the phone that he was “stuck in a snowbank” up in the Twin Cities, where he now lives. “ I planned to be there. I wanted (Nick) to come up to the Capitol. Of course everybody remembers what happened last year.”

Rohde was speaking of the decision in 2009 by the House Economic Development Committee to torpedo any chance that the House would get to vote on Nick’s Law. It was a bitter defeat for families who have children battling autism and were seeking coverage.

And now, with House Speaker Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) inexplicably announcing that HB 1624 was being reassigned to the Rules committee, Rohde and others who support Nick’s Law are concerned that HB 1624 will die in the Rules committee.

“(Rules) is traditionally the graveyard,” Rohde said.

An attempt to reach Steele for comment on Wednesday was unsuccessful.

Even though Rohde is hundreds of miles away, he has been keeping in touch with Rep. Brown and friends with autistic children.

Rohde conceded that there is precedent that a State Question should go to Rules, but switching committees “this late in the game,” he noted, proves “They’re not interested in dealing with it.”

“Basically you run out of time,” Rohde said.

Twenty-one other states have passed similar bills into law and as noted in a recent Edmond Sun article, a poll taken in 2010 for SoonerPoll revealed that nearly 80 percent of Oklahomans favored Nick’s Law.

As reported at Oklahoma Watchdog last August, Rohde told that news website that when these Nick’s Law-styled legislation has passed in other states, “free-market health care” kicks in and “..takes over because insurance companies go out and find qualified therapists and set their own rates.”

Rohde was also quoted at Oklahoma Watchdog as saying, “Most of these states see insurance coverage for autism and other special needs conditions as a fiscally conservative approach to health care, a true pro-life position, and the morally responsible thing to do.”

And now, Rohde and other supporters of Nick’s Law are simply hoping to speak their mind and in a committee setting it’s often difficult to do.

“This is a complex issue and we need to have some adult conversations,” Rohde said. “But we’re not able to have them. It’s disappointing.”

Rohde noted how many of the states bordering Oklahoma have already passed Nick’s Law-styled legislation, with Arkansas “getting close to passing it.”

But with no one able to figure out what is motivating Speaker Steele, considering he is not returning calls to Rep. Brown or other interested parties we have learned, one can only speculate what will ultimately happen.

What Rohde does know is that if these kids – who will soon be adults – don’t get the help they need, many could end up homeless or “clogging the jails” and affecting taxpayers in the long term.

But right now there doesn’t appear to be the political will let the people decide if Nick’s Law should become law. Additionally, Rohde suspects that Speaker Steele may be holding off dealing with the autism-and-insurance issue until he is out of his current leadership position.

“I think Speaker Steele doesn’t want to address it until he terms out,” Rohde said.

Copyright 2011 West Marie Media

Arkansas House Committee approves autism insurance coverage bill

Associated Press - February 22, 2011 1:34 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A House panel has approved a proposal to require most health insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism.

The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee gave its endorsement Tuesday morning to the bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Uvalde Lindsey of Fayetteville.

Jonesboro native Dayna Miller says her family could have been spared the financial burden it faces today if the measure had been in force earlier. Miller's son Briar was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old, and Miller said she sold her house, took out more than a hundred thousand dollars in student loans and considered selling her own kidney to pay for an intensive therapy that research indicated could help him.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tea Party. v. Virginia Mandate

The Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation, the umbrella group of tea party organizations in the state, has come out against a bill backed by House Speaker Bill Howell that would require businesses to provide insurance coverage for children with autism.

"Autism is certainly a heartbreaking condition and the treatments are a terrible financial strain for many families,'' said Mark Kevin Lloyd, chairman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation.

"The concern of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation with this bill is the inappropriate use of government," Lloyd said. "There is nothing stopping individual insurance companies from adding this coverage themselves as part of free market competition. Virginia, and our nation, has a history of private individuals and groups assisting those who are in unfortunate circumstances. Government is not an arm of compassion, and no matter how well intended, can never replace faith-based and private initiatives."

Howell's position, which all but ensures the bill will pass the General Assembly this year, has upset some members of his caucus, who question supporting a new mandate while opposing the health care overhaul passed last year. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that opposes the federal health care overhaul, began robocalls statewide Monday targeting Howell (R-Stafford) that will run through Wednesday's House vote.

The House tentatively approved the bill by voice vote Tuesday and will have final vote Wednesday.

"This is a misguided attempt by Speaker William Howell and a majority of his colleagues in the House of Delegates use government as a tool for compassion,'' Lloyd said. "By doing so they ignore the will of the people and, in particular, the tea party by anonymously voting in support of more big government mandates. It appears they are turning a deaf ear to citizens of the Commonwealth after the overwhelming rejection of health care mandates in the form of ObamaCare."

A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) is pending in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where the mandate has typically been supported.

The measure would require health insurers to pay for a specialized therapy known as applied behavioral analysis, as well as occupational, speech and other therapies, for children two to six years old.

The bill would cap annual costs at $35,000 and applies to businesses that employ more than 50 people and are not self-insured. It also covers public employees.

"If passed, (the bill) does nothing to stop a full-on expansion of this coverage, as well as any other mandated coverage the state sees fit, in the near future,'' Lloyd said. "This creates a slippery slope to a nanny-state type of government, eroding away the freedom of choice and autonomy that businesses and individuals enjoy today."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Minneapolis - City Pages IEIBT could cure autism

But HealthPartners and other insurance companies won't pay for it

By Nick Pinto Wednesday, Jan 26 2011

Tracy Reid was bawling uncontrollably, and the medical specialist sitting across from her couldn't understand why. She had just told Reid that her five-year-old son Max scored normally on a battery of mental tests and had an average IQ. What was there to cry about?

Max Reid, now five, was diagnosed with autism in 2008

Tracy Reid used to fear that the kiss in this photo would be the only one she'd ever get from her son. Thanks to Max's therapy, she no longer worries that he'll need a lifetime of institutional care.

Through her tears, Reid tried to explain: The assessment of Max brought to a close three years in which the single mother thought her son would never be normal, would never be able to go to college, would never be able to take care of himself.

Reid hadn't let herself cry since Max was diagnosed with autism. He showed many of the obvious signs: He didn't like to be close to other people, wouldn't make eye contact. He was slow to learn to talk, and fell behind the curve in picking up the skills most young children learn. He threw violent tantrums.

On her dresser at home, Reid kept a picture of what would probably be the only kiss Max would ever give her. Captured against a photography studio backdrop, the shot shows Max lunging at his mother in a bizarre, open-mouthed embrace.

Shortly after the picture was taken, Max became so uncomfortable with physical contact that kisses were unimaginable.

When Max was diagnosed with autism in 2008, the outlook wasn't good. His IQ classified him as mentally retarded. On the Global Areas of Functioning scale, a way of measuring how well you fit into society, he scored an abysmal 45. Reid wouldn't admit it to herself at the time, and even now feels ashamed to say so, but as the scope of Max's problems became clear, she felt like she was grieving the loss of her son.

Still, she wasn't ready to give up on him. She had health insurance through her work as a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society, and set about looking for treatments that could help Max. Eventually, she found the Minnesota Early Autism Project, which has had good results with a form of treatment called Intensive Early Intervention Behavior Therapy, or IEIBT.

Click the title to read the entire article

Local family seeks out autism help

The Edmond Sun
January 26, 2011
James Coburn

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series. In Friday’s Edition of The Edmond Sun will be coverage of state Rep. Randy Grau’s efforts to include autism coverage in the state’s high risk insurance pool.

People don’t fully understand the reality of an insurance company saying, “‘We’re not going to help you with your kid,’” Eric Littleton said.

All of the wall glass in Littleton’s Edmond home has been removed as testament to his little boy’s shattered life in the spectrum of autism. Anything that could be broken has been removed.

Solomon was 5 years old in 2008 when he contracted the rare neurological disease Landau-Kleffner syndrome. Eric and his wife Marci saw their twin son’s normal life deteriorate with a loss of motor skills.

Solomon began periods of sweating and crying or screaming for no reason, Marci said. He began having panic attacks that appeared like little tantrums.

“These panic attacks — he would actually take off running across the house banging into walls,” Eric said. “His heart rate would spike, his face would get beat red and his eyes would start bulging. He would start screaming at the top of his lungs.”

Soon Solomon could no longer feed himself, toilet or dress himself. His parents, twin brother Isaac and younger sister Grace appeared as strangers.

“In June of 2009 Solomon spoke his last words,” Eric said.

Today his panic attacks have stopped. Solomon has regained some ability to recognize his parents but remains unable to speak or perform tasks most children his age take for granted. With soft brown hair and big blue eyes, Solomon looks at you quickly before turning away.

Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears in children before age 3, according to the Autism Society of America. A complex neurobiological disorder, it impacts areas of the brain responsible for social interaction and communication skills.

One in 150 people has autism with one in every 100 boys affected, according to the Centers of Disease Control. Autism is a quiet epidemic growing at a rate of 10-17 percent per year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Eighty percent of these children are under the age of 14.

Solomon’s care involves a specialized multidisciplinary approach for applied behavioral analysis, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.

The Littletons take Solomon to a clinic in Wichita, Kan., for therapy at the Erin is Hope clinic. The board of directors of Erin is Hope announced recently it would like to bring a satellite campus to Edmond for children on the autism spectrum.

“We’re looking for sponsors of this project to help bring Erin’s Hope here,” Littleton said.

Eric said he will accept any type of help possible for Solomon. His son’s early therapeutic intervention is slowly improving his life. But Solomon’s out-of-pocket cost for his 35-40-hour a week therapy costs the Littletons between $5,000 to $7,000 a month.

The Littleton’s have exhausted their savings and earnings, broke without health insurance because their insurance company does not cover Solomon’s therapy, said Eric, owner of Littleton and Associates, a Realty company.

“For some reason there seems to be a disconnect and there’s not a moral outrage about this,” Eric said. “If you take the four leading pediatric diseases in America today, your child is more likely to be diagnosed with autism.”

In its second day of session, it took the House Economic Development Committee less than three hours in 2009 to kill any hope that Nick’s Law would be voted on by the House. Parents of children living with autism appeared disheartened while leaving the Capitol building that day.

Nick’s Law would have provided insurance coverage for the early diagnosis testing of autism and medications until the child becomes 21 years of age. A financial cap would have covered $50,000 of behavioral therapy per year without lifetime caps in the House plan.

State Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, has filed HB 1624 to bring Nick’s Law to a vote of the people. With a large favorable response from a SoonerPoll last year showing 79.5 percent of all Oklahomans favoring passing of this measure.

A state actuarial report determined that Nick’s Law could raise insurance premiums from 7.8 percent to 19.8 percent.

In 2007, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, a research and advocacy association of insurance carriers, reported insurance mandates regarding autism will have little impact on the cost of health insurance premiums for consumers. The report assessed the incremental cost of state-mandated benefits for autism in 10 states would be less than 1 percent.

The Oklahoma State Education Employees Group Insurance Board announced its own study revealed that Nick’s law would have 1 percent or less impact on claims.

“I told all the lawmakers I’ve met with I’m not wanting to play a zero-sum game where it’s my way or the highway,” Littleton said. “I think most of the families in our situation feel the same way. We have real strong opinions about what’s happened to our families.

“We think insurance companies should be required to pay. But ultimately, I’ve told people this before that my son is sick. He needs help and I don’t have the luxury of standing on principle.”

FOR MORE information about Solomon Littleton and Landau-Kleffner syndrome, visit

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rep Mike Brown introduces HB 1624 Vote of the People for Nick's Law

Fox 25 News Oklahoma City
Jan 21, 2011

Oklahoma City - Rep Mike Brown has filed HB 1624 which will allow the voters of Oklahoma to have the final say on Nick's Law if passed by the state legislature.

Click here to view the video.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shelley Hendrix Reynolds: Oregon First State to Introduce Autism Insurance Reform in 2011

And we're off!

It's easy to tell the first Monday back after the New Year in the Government Relations department at Autism Speaks. It's full of sparks as rockets start taking off in every possible angle in the race to introduce autism insurance reform legislation in the states. States spend all fall hammering out policy details, knitting coalitions and growing their grassroots advocates and then BANG! It's off to the races. This mad pace continues throughout the first half of the year in the scramble to see whose states will achieve the objective this spring legislative session.

This January, Oregon entered the fray as the first state of 2011 to introduce autism insurance reform legislation with both a House and Senate version of the bill. Oregon has a legislative session that only meets during odd years. The team of volunteers in 2009 worked very hard but we just didn't reach this objective. We know more now. We are armed with more data and more states have enacted legislation. Oregon's volunteer leaders have spent time cultivating that fresh ground and sowing the seeds necessary for success.

Their time is now.
When you look at our map of the United States you see a swath of green across the nation utilized to signify the 23 states that have passed this legislation in the heartland, along the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seabord. But the west coast has remained unphased. All children with autism need appropriate health care coverage.

How is it possible that our nation has an entire coast where no coverage exists for our children to access the treatment and therapy they need?

2011 is the year to resolve that injustice. And Oregon Autism Advocates, I hope you will get involved and change your children's destinies.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

With Martin Luther King, Jr. day this past Monday, if you live in a state that has not yet turned green, listen to his words and let that motivate you. Do not give up. Do not sit quietly and depend on others to do this hard work for you. Roll up your sleeves, get busy and get it done. It is worth the struggle.

Yesterday, I spoke with a parent from a state whose law was recently implemented. Their child is severely affected by autism -- and is a teenager. Their family had lost hope. With the advent of the child's new ABA therapy program, because they have access to this treatment, he is now learning independent skills. He is making small meals for himself. He is doing his laundry. He can perform chores around the house. He is contributing to the family unit and because he is more engaged it has changed the dynamic of the family's life and his. These laws are changing lives. They can change yours.

If you live in one of the 27 states that have not passed autism insurance reform and want to get involved to change than visit and sign up today.

Good luck, Oregon. We are rooting for you!

Michigan Lawmakers discuss autism insurance coverage

Jan 20, 2011

LANSING (AP) -- Michigan lawmakers are renewing efforts to require the offering of insurance coverage for certain autism treatments.

Bills were introduced this week in the state Senate. Democratic Sen. Tupac Hunter of Detroit said Thursday the insurance coverage is needed to help families that can't afford the costs of certain autism treatments for their children.

More than 20 other states have similar laws, but the Michigan measure is opposed by business and insurance groups that say mandating coverage would raise the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance.

Supporters of the measure say it's an issue of fairness and that it would save Michigan money in the long run.

The proposal to require autism insurance coverage stalled in the Senate last year. Bills are being reintroduced for the 2011-12 legislative session.

(Copyright ©2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Virginia Autism Project pushes for insurance reform

VAP taking two bills to the State Senate

January 17, 2011|By Bob Grebe | Reporter

The Virginia Autism Project is hoping the General Assembly will take up Autism insurance reform.

The VAP website lists two bills the group is supporting this year. SB 1061 - Coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder; relating to the state employee health benefit plan. This bill only covers state employees. SB 1062 - Relating to health insurance coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This bill excludes state employees.

According to the VAP there are specific reason for the separate bills:

"1. Several legislators last year were concerned that our bill excluded state employees. 2. If state employees are included, then the bill has a fiscal impact for the state budget and we have been told, nothing will pass that costs the state money. 3. SB 1062 does not have a fiscal impact for the state and if the legislators want to ensure coverage for state employees, then we have a bill that will do that and they can support SB 1061 without endangering SB 1062 by giving it a state budget impact."

Lavada Robertson of the Virginia Autism Project is hoping meaningful insurance reform will pass this year.

"We have to start somewhere and this is it," said Robertson. "The Autism community needs to come together to get this accomplished."

VAP officials say this approach is a good first step for establishing the costs of autism treatment to the insurance industry.

According to the VAP, Texas passed similar legislation in 2007. The group is hoping everyone will get involved in the process.

"Autism affects 1 in 110 children and is growing rapidly," said Robertson. "We ask that you call and email your Delegate and State Senator and ask them for a favor, to co-patron the Autism insurance bills introduced by Senator Janet Howell."

W. Virigina Flash Mob Raises Autism Awareness

Click Here to see the video.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- As people headed into the Capital Classic Wednesday night, they probably noticed something was a little different this year.

A large group of people suddenly came together to speak out about an issue affecting thousands of families.

They're trying to get better health coverage to help kids living with autism in West Virginia.

Sonja Almonte says she sang a rendition of "Lean on Me," along with dozens of other people "because my first-born child was diagnosed at a year-and-a-half."

"My son, my 8-year-old son Logan, was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old," says Del. Denise Campbell, D-Randolph.

They're among thousands affected in many different ways. For some people diagnosed with autism, joining in the chorus isn't even possible.

There are treatments available, but they come at a steep price.

"We actually gave up our dream home to be able to provide services for our child," says Earline Anglin. "And, we're so thankful that we did because he's done very well."

Del. Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, has a child living with autism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of 110 kids has an autism spectrum disorder.

Hunt says, "We're in the middle of an epidemic here. And the problem is not so much the price now, but what's it going to cost to take care of these people when they reach adulthood?"

He's pushing for a bill that would require insurance companies to cover people with autism.

Sometimes, those treatments can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year.

"It's embarrassing that 35 or 40 other states, most of them bankrupt have already had the foresight to pass this bill. And, I think we just feel like there's a need to do it now," Hunt says.

Hunt says he expects a bill to be introduced to the Legislature as early as Thursday.