By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant
Hello again, everybody! With three weeks until the 2008 session, we are beginning to see the issues that will take center stage when lawmakers return to the Capitol.
As I continue to work to improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans, I am guided by one of my favorite political quotes. It is from former Vice President Hubert Humphrey who said that the moral test of government is how it treats those in the dawn of life, the children; those in the twilight of life, the elderly; and, those in the shadows of life, the sick.
Some children in the dawn of life suffer in the shadows of life. A bill I have introduced for 2008 would shine new light into those lives. Senate Bill 1537 would mandate health insurance policies to cover treatment for a disorder affecting nearly one in every 150 children.
If passed, the bill would make Oklahoma the 18th state to require insurance policies to cover health issues related to autistic disorders. The idea behind the law is to 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. 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.
Researching the issue, I found that 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. In short, the early intervention this bill would mandate is the key giving these children the best chance of fulfilling their God-given potential.
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. This 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. As a matter of policy, I believe this bill is an important first step in a long-term effort to ensure no Oklahoma child with autism will be left behind.
Some will oppose this on philosophical grounds because they oppose insurance mandates. The real question is this: Do we give these kids a chance to become productive, taxpaying citizens or do we leave them in the shadows? For me, regardless of “philosophy,” this is an easy answer.
Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week and may God bless you all.