As the clock runs out on the 2008 legislative session, Senator Jay Paul Gumm expressed disappointment that House Republican leaders continue to stonewall families with autistic children.
“If the Speaker and his minions truly believe in their argument - believe their position is righteous – then why do they fear a vote on ‘Nick'’ Law’?” Gumm asked.
“Instead of fulfilling their responsibility to the people of Oklahoma, House Republican leaders have chosen the cowardly route and repeatedly killed autism insurance – and Steffanie’s Law, and colon cancer screening – in the proverbial ‘smoke-filled room.’ Anything that would improve access to quality health care has been automatically rejected by House Leadership.”
Gumm said the citizens of Oklahoma deserve better than for leaders to hide behind silence and refuse to listen to those Oklahomans they are sworn to serve.
“It is shameful, it is heartbreaking and I fear there will be children who will be irretrievably lost to autism,” he said. “One would have hoped the House leadership would have had the courage to make their case on the floor of what is supposed to be ‘The People’s House’,” Gumm said.
“They may think they have won this battle; the truth is they have lost more than they can imagine. This battle will not end because we who support these measures believe autistic children are worth fighting for; it is sad House leaders refused to place that same value on the children and their families.”
Anticipating House leaders will not “see the light,” Gumm said he has filed a request to conduct a special Senate interim study to examine the issues surrounding autism insurance. He said the bi-partisan committee would examine the impact of coverage for autism treatment, the impact of autism on the state budget, and the impact of “Nick’s Law” on health care premiums.
“Despite the House’s inaction, 1 in 150 Oklahoma children will continue to be diagnosed with autism, and more families will be stretched to the limit and beyond to take care of their children,” Gumm said. “There will be growing pressures on our schools and our social safety net. This is an Oklahoma problem, and we will need a solution.
“Also, since House leaders have tried in vain to discount our study on the cost of autism insurance, I have grave doubts about the integrity and independence of any study conducted by them on autism.”
The lawmaker said he would never stop in his effort to enact “Nick’s Law.”
“We hear a lot of talk about family values, especially from the very leaders who refused to allow a vote on autism insurance,” he concluded. “They absolutely refused to pass this measure that values families. I think they have forfeited any moral authority to even say the words ‘family values’ in any context at all.”