Autism coverage bill goes to governor

Legislative Staff Release

Published: 20-Apr-2010

A bipartisan effort has put a bill on Governor Brad Henry’s desk to make certain health insurance companies cover the same illnesses for children with autism as they do children without such a diagnosis.

That assurance is contained in Senate Bill 2045. When the bill was before the Senate, Senator Jay Paul Gumm, a Durant Democrat, proposed the language as an amendment, which senators overwhelmingly approved. The amended bill passed both the Senate and House of Representatives and is now on its way to the governor.

“During my work with families who have children with autism, this was one of their highest priorities,” said Gumm. “We have families who have children with autism who pay their premiums and expect to be treated fairly. This amended bill will ensure that very thing.”

The senator said dozens of families told him some insurance companies routinely deny claims filed on behalf of children with autism for illnesses and maladies unrelated to the diagnosis of autism. Such claims were denied because Oklahoma does not require health insurance policies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism and most insurers specifically exclude autism, accord to a release from Gumm which was sent to CapitolBeatOK.

“For me,” Gumm said, “this issue speaks to the fundamental moral question of ‘fairness.’ Regardless of anyone’s stand on whether insurers should be required to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism, one fundamental fact remains: If a child with autism breaks an arm on the playground or gets sick, they should be covered the same as any other child.”

Gumm, a Democrat from Durant, said his measure began as a stand-alone bill. After discussing the issue with Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow, and chair of the Senate Committee on Retirement and Insurance, a bipartisan agreement was struck to include the language in one of Brown’s bills.

“I want to express my deep appreciation to both Senator Brown and Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee,” Gumm said. “Their support has made it possible to get this legislation through both chambers and to the governor. Families across Oklahoma will benefit because we worked together.

“It shows that we can set aside partisan differences and find that common ground on which we can build a better Oklahoma for all our citizens, and this was a critical step toward fairness for our children and families who are struggling with autism.”