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Lawmakers to Consider Proposal to Mandate Insurance Coverage for Autism Treatment

Sen. Jay Paul Gumm Sen. Jay Paul Gumm
Sen. Gumm says access to health careis vital for autistic children.

A bill filed this week by Senator Jay Paul Gumm would mandate health insurance policies cover treatment for a disorder affecting nearly one in every 150 children.

Senate Bill 1537 would require insurance policies to cover health issues related to autistic disorders. National research shows that one in every 150 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism. Currently, 17 states have similar insurance mandates.

Gumm, a Democrat from Durant, said his bill called Nick's Law would give more families in Oklahoma a chance to seek both diagnosis and treatment for an affliction that is growing at an alarming rate.

Autism is as great as any health challenge a child and family would face, the lawmaker said. Health insurance policies should include protection from debilitating disorders like autism. Families facing autism should not have to worry whether an insurance company bureaucrat has determined it isn't cost effective to cover diagnosis and treatment.

Autism is still a relatively newly diagnosed disease. Those afflicted with it are characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests.

Wayne Rohde father of 10-year-old Nick and a member of a concerned group of parents and doctors called the Oklahoma Autism Coalition said Oklahoma needs a legislative fix to help provide parents care that is needed.

We need a complete systematic change in the way we provide care to individuals with autism and Nick’s Law is the cornerstone for that change, Rohde said.

Aggressive treatments can potentially give diagnosed autistic children aged 3 and younger a 50 percent chance of navigating through a mainstream public school system with limited assistance.

Research shows us that early intervention is the key giving these children the best chance of fulfilling their God-given potential, Gumm said. Health insurance exists for challenges like this. No insured family should ever have to doubt whether they will get the help they expected when they bought insurance.
Gumm said his bill is a reasonable, proactive plan to address a crippling problem that is affecting more families than ever.

This coverage is desperately needed to give autistic children in Oklahoma an opportunity to have a healthy and traditional childhood experience, he said. As a matter of policy, this bill is an important first step in a long-term effort to ensure no Oklahoma child with autism will be left behind.

Contact info
Senator Jay Paul Gumm State Capitol: (405) 521-5586 Durant Office: (580) 924-4717