By Senator Jay Paul Gumm
Hello again, everybody! With half the session gone, the seeming inability for a number of issues to cross the partisan divide is troubling.
My bill requiring health insurance coverage for autism diagnosis and treatment and another called “Steffanie’s Law” – requiring insurance companies to continue covering patients participating in clinical trials – ran into partisan roadblocks in the House of Representatives.
In other states, both measures were enacted with bipartisan support. In the Oklahoma Senate – which is divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans – both bills enjoyed bipartisan support. Only when they arrive in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives do they fall victim to partisan politics.
Certainly, there are differences between the parties. Political campaigns are where those differences are and should be discussed. When campaign season is over, and it comes time to govern, the responsibility should shift away from winning elections and toward finding those areas of agreement on issues that affect us all.
Autism strikes Republicans and Democrats alike. Cancer strikes Democrats and Republicans alike. Partisanship should be checked at the door when we are discussing issues relating to health. Working to make Oklahoma a healthier state is in everyone’s best interest – Democrat, Republican and Independent.
On both the autism and clinical trial insurance bills, “no” is the only answer we have thus far received from the House committee chairman who is single handedly holding them up. He has never said to the media, “I am opposed to these bills, but here is another idea how to help these families.”
None of us who are fighting for these families is so inflexible that we would not look at another answer. “No,” however, is simply unacceptable – for whatever the reason. These bills both make sense; both will improve the quality of life for thousands of Oklahomans – and in some cases they might even save lives.
If we cannot help families facing the most difficult health issues of their lives, then I truly do not know why we are here. The phrase “family values” often gets tossed around in political discussions, but I do not know how anyone can talk about “family values” if they do not support issues that value families.
When it comes to standing up for the people of Oklahoma, I will always employ every legislative means at my disposal. While that tenacity has been criticized on the editorial pages of one of the major metropolitan newspapers, I see it as a fundamental part of being a lawmaker.
For me, the battle comes down to this: If we cannot enact policies to help families facing health challenges like autism or cancer, then we will have a difficult time enacting policies that help us all. This battle is about Oklahoma’s soul and Oklahoma’s families, and no partisan political interest should trump either.
Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week and may God bless you all.