Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Senator Gumm Asks Speaker for Solution on Autism

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, has sent House Speaker Chris Benge a letter asking for a proposal from the Speaker to help families struggling to provide services to children with autism.

Gumm is the primary author of “Nick’s Law,” a measure that would require health insurance policies to cover autism diagnosis and treatment. Last week, Speaker Benge announced he would not allow the bill to be considered by the House of Representatives.

Text of Senator Gumm’s letter, hand delivered to Benge’s Capitol office Tuesday, follows:

May 6, 2008

The Honorable Chris Benge
Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
State Capitol, Room 401
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Mr. Speaker:

I was deeply disappointed to learn of the decision by you and your leadership team to deny even a hearing to “Nick’s Law,” the proposal to require health insurance coverage of autism diagnosis and treatment. Despite passing the Senate on bipartisan votes on four different occasions, the consistent answer from the House of Representatives has been “No.”

From the beginning of this struggle, those of us who support “Nick’s Law” have never believed our solution was the only answer. We have been – and continue to be – open to other potential solutions. You have given your answer to “Nick’s Law”; and it is “No.” My question, Mr. Speaker, is: What is your solution? We have placed ours on the table time and again only to be denied even a chance to present it in what is supposed to be “The People’s House.”

As the session has worn on, the number of autistic children continues to grow in Oklahoma. Families continue to be torn asunder by the pressures of providing needed treatment for their children. More autistic children grow into adulthood and lives as wards of the state, increasing pressure on future state budgets. Still, the consistent answer from you and your leadership has been “No.” We talk a lot about “family values” at the Capitol; should not we reason together to find solutions that value families?

You and I share a commitment to protecting lives of the unborn. The rate of autism diagnosis is roughly equivalent to the rate of abortions in Oklahoma. One out of 150 Oklahoma children will be diagnosed with autism. Should not we continue to value those lives once they emerge from the womb? I do not believe a commitment to life should end once a child is born.

Other states, deeply “red” Republican states like Texas and Florida, have enacted autism insurance legislation. This should not be a partisan issue; autism strikes Republican, Independent and Democratic families.

We owe to these families, voters in every district in this state, to find some solution. Again, Mr. Speaker, we have made our proposal; what is yours?

There is still time for us to act if you move with dispatch. Lest you think it too difficult for us to accomplish in two-and-a-half weeks, consider the challenges faced by the parents of autistic children on a daily basis. If they can meet those challenges, surely you and I can find some piece of common ground to help them.

I stand ready to consider any alternative proposal you might suggest, and I believe we have a responsibility to act this session. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.


Jay Paul Gumm
Senator, District 6


cc: Oklahoma Autism Coalition
Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
State Capitol Press Corps

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