March 31, 2010
Wesley Burt

Most Oklahomans support reforming health insurance regulations to cover children with autism

A recent SoonerPoll finds that most Oklahomans would support requiring health insurance to cover diagnosis and treatment of children with autism. Results show 79.5 percent of likely Oklahoma voters say they would support coverage requirement.

State Senator Jay Paul Gumm (D, District 6) introduced a bill that would require insurers to cover the screening, but the bill was killed last year in the Economic Development and Financial Services Committee. The committee was made up of nine Republicans and five Democrats who either opposed the reform or did not stand up to their leadership.

Interestingly, the poll showed that 53.9 percent of likely Oklahoma voters said they would be more likely to oppose a candidate if they were against insurance coverage.

�These results show that the legislature was clearly on the wrong side of public opinion when the bill Sen. Gumm introduced was killed last year,� Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll, said. �With 53.9 percent of voters saying they would be more likely to oppose a candidate against autism coverage, it appears the legislature cannot afford to ignore public opinion on this issue again.�, Oklahoma�s public opinion pollster, conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 1000 likely voters from February 25 through March 8. The study has a margin of error of � 3.1 percent.

Further analysis of the data shows that Democrats are 16.9 points more likely to support insurance reform and 11.9 points more likely to condemn those legislatures that oppose reform than Republicans.

Autism Speaks, the nation�s largest autism advocacy organization, along with many Oklahoma autism organizations and families, have been calling for the Oklahoma legislature to reintroduce critical autism insurance reform legislation, known as �Nick�s Law.�

�The solution for helping these families must come through legislative action,� Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks vice president of government relations, said.�We call on the Oklahoma legislature to vote on and pass Nick�s Law and join the growing number of states that have ended healthcare discrimination against children with autism.�

�The autism advocates have carried the field on public opinion regarding autism coverage and treatment.� Keith Gaddie, Vice-President of SoonerPoll, said. �The autism issue has support that transcends every political and demographic group in the state. It is an issue that now has consensual, moral authority in the policy debate.�

Representative Mike Brown (D, District 4) has authored House Joint Resolution 1068, which would "refer (the issue) to the people for their approval" on the November ballot, but the resolution is stuck a rules committee and may never see the ballot.

SoonerPoll found that 66.6 percent of likely Oklahoma voters said they would support a state ballot initiative to make a law requiring health insurance to cover diagnosis and treatment of children with autism.

In Jan. 2009 the Oklahoma legislature released an actuarial report which claimed autism insurance reform would result in an increase to policyholders of at least 7.8 percent and potentially as high as almost 20 percent.

According to Autism Speaks, these numbers do not hold up. When the $151 to $356 increase reported in the actuarial analysis is compared to the $10,592 average annual family premium reported in the same 2006 MEPS survey data cited by the actuarial analysis, the potential increase equals 1.3 to 3.4 percent, far less than the 7.8 to 20 percent increase indicated.

15 other states have already passed autism coverage legislation, Four of those are close Oklahoma neighbors; Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana.

Wesley Burt
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Wesley Burt