Release: April 18, 2008
Gumm Says News Release Does Not Provide “The Rest of the Story” on Autism Coverage
A news release about the cost of requiring insurance to provide an autism benefit fails to tell “the rest of the story,” according to the sponsor of “Nick’s Law.”
Senator Jay Paul Gumm, a Democrat from Durant, wrote “Nick’s Law.” The bill would require health insurance policies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism, a bio-neurological disorder striking one out of ever 150 children.
Senator Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, released a statement Thursday in which he said the cost of an autism benefit to the state employees’ insurance program would result in additional $6 million in claims to be paid out annually. He also said that an autism benefit would cost the private sector even more.
Gumm said the news release fails to examine the “real dollar cost and the human cost” of autism. “Saying a benefit requirement will cost a system ‘X’ amount of dollars does not put the amount into perspective,” he said. “I hope just throwing out a dollar amount is not designed to create fear of ‘Nick’s Law’ and erode the growing support for the measure.”
Anderson has voted for “Nick’s Law,” and Gumm expressed “deep gratitude” to his colleague. Gumm also acknowledged the dollar amount Anderson mentioned in his news release is exactly correct.
“What Senator Anderson failed to share in his news release is that $6 million is only one percent of the money collected from state employees in the form of premiums,” Gumm said. “Let’s put ‘one percent’ into perspective: at worst, that would be an increase of one penny for every dollar paid in premiums.”
Gumm said a one percent claim cost is consistent across the nation, even in the private sector. Texas, however, enacted an autism benefit requirement in 2007. When asked by Oklahoma’s legislative staff, the Texas Department of Insurance said there has been no premium increase attributed to that state’s autism benefit.
Another factor in the real cost of autism, Gumm said, is what will happen to autistic children when they become adults. “Early diagnosis and treatment stands the best chance of giving these kids an opportunity to become everything God intended for them to become,” he said.
“If we deny them coverage and treatment, they are at risk of being unable to care for themselves when they grow up, and the bill will fall to us taxpayers.”
According to a study by Senate staff, a conservative estimate of the amount of money currently spent by taxpayers to provide services to autistic children and adults is almost $50 million annually.
“As the number of autistic children grows, so will the number of autistic adults in the future,” Gumm said. “We will have to take care of them and when we do, that $50 million will look like a drop in the bucket. Not only will it cost us money, it will cost us souls as these adults will remain forever locked behind the bars of autism.”
A more tragic illustration of the human cost was a recent brutal attack on an autistic adult in northwest Oklahoma. Two men have been charged with viciously torturing an autistic co-worker and recording the crime on camera in an attempt to make a reality DVD they could sell.
“This case sadly shows the greatest fear facing every parent of an autistic child,” Gumm said. “If we fail these children today, we will create a generation of perfect victims – individuals who are unable to bear witness to whatever horror is perpetrated on them. Surely we can do better.”
Despite roadblocks in the House of Representatives, Gumm successfully amended a House bill in the Senate to include the autism benefit. That measure is destined for a Senate/House conference committee, where the proposal will be discussed.
“This fight is about valuing some of the most vulnerable among us,” Gumm said. “In some ways, it is about our state’s soul. Autistic children and their families deserve our help, and I will continue to use every legislative means at my disposal to advance their cause.”
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