Oklahoma State Senate
OFFICE OF SENATOR JAY PAUL GUMM
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties
For Immediate Release: July 7, 2008
Sen. Jay Paul Gumm
GOP “Rising Star” Signs Autism Bill in Louisiana
Oklahoma’s Republican Speaker Killed Similar
OKLAHOMA CITY – Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana
this week signed a bill requiring health insurance companies in
that state to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism.
The measure is similar to an Oklahoma bill known as “Nick’s
Law.” That measure passed the Oklahoma Senate four times
on bipartisan votes. The bill was repeatedly killed by Republican
House Speaker Chris Benge and his leadership team by denying the
bill a hearing – either in committee or the full House of
Autism is a bio-neurological disorder that inhibits a person’s
ability to communicate and develop social relationships. Studies
show that one in 150 children will get some form of autism. Left
untreated, many autistic children will become wards of the state,
supported by taxpayers.
“Another high-profile Republican governor has chosen to
do what is right for autistic children in his state,” said
Paul Gumm, D-Durant, author of Nick’s Law.
“Meanwhile, in our state, Speaker Benge – in the interest
of partisanship – is apparently content to condemn an entire
generation of children to be forever locked behind the walls of
autism. It is nothing less than shameful, and denying even a vote
on the bill was a blatant act of political and partisan cowardice.”
The Louisiana plan signed by Jindal passed the Louisiana Legislature
with unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats. It was authored
by Republican state Rep. Franklin Foil of Baton Rouge.
The bill applies group health insurance policies issued in Louisiana
with more than 50 members. Beginning Jan. 1, 2009, the policies
will cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders
in children under age 17. The annual benefit cap is $36,000 annually,
with a $144,000 lifetime benefit cap.
Gumm said the Louisiana bill is targeted to the early years of
a child’s life during which diagnosis and treatment can do
the most good. “Like our bill, this is not a ‘blank
check’,” he said. “It makes treatment available
to families who pay for health insurance during the years when
treatment can lead to significant improvement.”
Jindal is considered one of the national Republican Party’s “rising
stars.” Most pundits put him on the short list to be the
vice presidential choice by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican
Jindal is not the first high-profile Republican governor to sign
autism insurance legislation this year. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist,
another potential Republican vice presidential pick, signed that
state’s autism bill last month – a bill passed by the
Republican-controlled Florida Legislature.
Also, in Pennsylvania, Republican House Speaker Dennis O’Brien
championed a measure - which passed the House unanimously and a
Republican-controlled state Senate 49-1 – that will allow
parents of autistic children to pay for behavioral therapy and
related services with private health insurance. Pennsylvania’s
Gov. Ed Rendell has already said he will sign the bill.
“In state-after-state, bills requiring coverage of autism
diagnosis and treatment are crossing the partisan divide, and that
was the case in the Oklahoma Senate,” Gumm said.
“Speaker Benge and his team could have been heroes to autistic
children; we begged them to do so. Instead they chose the shameful
path of putting partisan interests and big insurance ahead of children’s
futures. The Speaker’s position is not only out-of-step with
Oklahoma values, it is out of step with Republicans nationwide.”
Gumm said he will revive the proposal next February when the Oklahoma
Legislature returns for the 2009 session. “This is an issue
that is not going away because these kids and their families are
not going away,” Gumm said.
“These families need our help; they need to have the kind
of health insurance coverage that children in Louisiana and now
20 other states will get because of the bipartisan wisdom and courage
of which Speaker Benge and his leadership team are apparently unwilling
For more information
Sen. Gumm's Office: (405) 521-5586