NOTE: Approximately 12 minutes after the following news release was issued, Rep. Ron Peterson issued a news release announcing he will not seek re-election. You may see that release by pointing your browser to: http://www.okhouse.gov/OkhouseMedia/PressRoom.aspx
A “puff-piece” profile of the lawmaker leading the fight against “Nick’s Law,” the autism insurance bill, reveals his true intentions, according to Senator Jay Paul Gumm.
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) distributed a profile of Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow. The profile lauds the lawmaker’s “courage” for blocking even consideration of Nick’s Law when it arrived in the House of Representatives, noting Peterson’s defense of “free enterprise.”
“There is nothing courageous about turning your back on children who have no voice,” said Gumm, who wrote Nick’s Law. “Praising Rep. Peterson’s stand against Nick’s Law for its ‘free enterprise’ implications is the moral equivalent of praising an abortionist who destroys life just to make a buck. This is a lame defense of an unconscionable stand.”
Despite differences between the lawmakers, Gumm said he “believed in his heart Rep. Peterson was sincere” in saying he might consider the measure upon completion of an “independent” actuarial study.
“The puff-piece – inadvertently, I would suspect – pulls the curtain back and lets us see the ‘wizard’ for what his intentions truly are,” Gumm said. “Clearly, Rep. Peterson and those in the insurance industry to whom he is beholden will never allow Nick’s Law to be heard. The profile is a puff-piece that hits families with autistic children like a sledgehammer.”
A paragraph in the profile quotes Peterson as he belittles treatment of autistic children and implies these children are hopeless, Gumm related. “He apparently thinks autistic children are throwaway, a lost cause,” he said.
Peterson said in the profile that the treatment that would be covered by Nick’s Law is clinically unproven.
“The medical profession has stated there’s no reason to believe behavioral therapy is any more effective than anything else,” Peterson said. “The results are described as marginal in any case, and these individuals will be wards of the state in any case. So you’d have the cost without any benefit, as best we can see.”
Gumm said he was shocked at the impudence of the statement. “With one paragraph, Rep. Peterson tells every parent of every autistic child that their child is not worth saving, not worth even trying to save,” he said. “I cannot imagine anyone taking so cavalier attitude toward life; it truly is fear-provoking.”
Trying to save children from an adult life as wards of the state and giving their families some hope are the key purposes behind Nick’s Law, Gumm related. “Aside from the distastefulness of an elected official apparently considering the most vulnerable among us as throwaway, let’s look at the financial end of it,” he said.
“These ‘wards of the state’ will cost untold millions in taxpayer dollars. Instead of expecting health insurance to do what families pay premiums for and help these children, Rep. Peterson is content to pass the eventual bill to taxpayers. In the meantime, his so-called ‘courage’ is keeping children locked behind the walls of autism. He is wrong on both counts.”
Oklahomans will have to assert the political power they have, guaranteed in the state Constitution, to end insurance discrimination against autistic children. To that end, parents pressing for autism insurance coverage have vowed to continue the fight – over the next eight months and back at the Capitol during the 2009 legislative session.
Gumm said the parents are the ones showing real courage. “If OCPA, or anyone else for that matter, wants to see real courage, simply look into the eyes of these parents,” he said.
“Real courage is speaking truth to powerful interests; real courage is never giving up on your children. These families have shown unwavering strength in the face of antipathy and outright hostility. There cause is righteous, and it is my honor to stand alongside them, come what may.”