Parents fight for autism legislation to pass

Wednesday, April 9th 2008, 7:20 pm
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

Several Oklahoma families are in the autism fight. They're trying to get legislation passed that would force insurance companies to cover treatment for autistic children.

This battle is creating an emotional firestorm at the State Capitol.

As with most fights at the State Capitol, it all comes down to the mighty dollar. And in this case, neither side is giving up.

"We have disgraced this House and the way the rules of this House are set up to operate," Rep. Mike Brown (D) District 4 said.

"I think it was a terrible day, a sad day for the government here at the State Capitol," Rep. Wallace Collins (D) District 45 said.

Representative Ron Peterson is chairman of the committee assigned to hear Nick's Law, which would require insurance companies to pay for autism treatment.

Wednesday, dozens of parents showed up for a second time hoping Peterson would allow the bill to be heard.

The measure was not heard--leaving parents crying, 'partisan politics.'

"It appears to me they're very behold ant to insurance lobby," Wayne Rohde, Nick's father, said.

Senator Jay Paul Gumm wrote Nick's Law. The Senate has passed it, but unless it can get through the House, the bill dies.

"This was the worst perversion of the Legislature process I've ever seen," Sen. Jay Paul Gumm (D) District 6 said. "For someone to run a train through a committee, to prevent discussion of an issue, it's absolutely unconscionable."

"If we ran autism today, the members that are supporting it aren't supporting it based on data, they're basing it upon emotion and that may be very legitimate," Rep. Ron Peterson (R) District 80 said. "But, as a policy maker we're trying to again address our insurance population and making sure that doesn't grow."

Representative Ron Peterson said he doesn't want the cost of insurance to go up and that's why he's not supporting any mandates right now.

But, supporters of Nick's Law said 18 other states have passed similar legislation and there are no evidence suggesting insurances rates will go up.

The fight is far from over. Supporters of Nick's law said they're working on another way to get the bill before the House for a vote. It's already passed the Senate.