Monday was Autism Awareness Day, and parents who have children with autism want lawmakers to be aware that a bill working it’s way through the legislature could hurt them.
Senate Bill 478 would allow out of state insurance companies to sell policies in Oklahoma. The goal is to increase competition and decrease costs, but it could also cause problems for families dealing with autism.
Chloe Hood, 9, loves being in the spotlight, and Monday, she was able to ham it up, reading the governor’s proclamation naming the day, Autism Awareness Day.
Chloe’s schedule is busy with a lot of therapy to help with her autism.
“We get to like play games and like we stop and practice and stuff,” she said.
Chloe’s mom said the therapy works. She pushed for a bill last year that requires insurance companies to cover autism treatment in Oklahoma, but she’s concerned another bill that already passed in the senate, will undo that.
“It will allow out of state insurers to come in and sell insurance that does not meet our Oklahoma state regulations or mandates,” Tara Hood said. “And then the next section of the bill says that in state insurers, to be competitive, can also sell insurance that doesn’t meet Oklahoma state mandates.”
On the Senate floor, Sen. Bill Brown, R-Tulsa, told his colleagues, that’s simply not true.
“There’s been a lot of controversy that this might take away mandates that are on insurance policies that we have here in Oklahoma. That’s totally incorrect,” Brown said.
But after the bill passed in the Senate, Brown changed his tune.
“They’re right,” Brown told News 9. “If they had an individual policy and they were wanting to buy a different policy out-of-state, that out-of-state policy might not have autism coverage.”
The legislation clearly states, "The out-of-state insurers shall not be required to offer or provide state–mandated health benefits required by Oklahoma law…”
“Families are finally for the first time just in the last couple of months actually able to get coverage for autism treatments and if this legislation, SB 478, passes we’re worried that families won’t have that protection,” Hood said.
Gov. Mary Fallin said she’ll take a closer look at the bill before signing it into law.
“If it helps our families, we’ll certainly consider those, and if it hurts them, then we need to know that, too,” Fallin said.
News 9 did reach out to Brown for clarification. He is refused to comment. The bill is now being discussed by the state House of Representatives.