For Immediate Release: January 7, 2009
House Speaker Continues Effort
to Justify Allegiance to Insurance Profits
House leaders fired yet another shot today in a full-out Republican legislative assault on efforts to end insurance discrimination against children with autism.
The seven-page study, including a two-page letter, suggests “Nick’s Law” would drive up insurance costs in the state of Oklahoma by almost 20 percent.
“I wouldn’t want to question the veracity of their actuary, but the increase suggested in the study has not been experienced in any state that has ended insurance discrimination against autistic children,” said Senator Jay Paul Gumm, chief legislative sponsor of Nick’s Law. “I guess it is fair to say I trust their actuary about as much as they trusted ours.”
Gumm, a Democrat from Durant, said the news release accompanying the study contains at least one factual inaccuracy relating to Texas’ law ending insurance discrimination against autistic children.
“It is totally misleading to suggest that Aetna has increased ‘policy holder costs’ by $379 per month,” he said. “They are trying to make it sound like premium costs went up that much. What they should have said is that is the amount of claims paid out on behalf of families benefiting from Texas’ version of Nick’s Law.”
“The question for House leaders is: ‘Why are they making such misleading statements?’”
In May, supporters of “Nick’s Law” released a comprehensive study by Jim Bouder (sent with this news release as a PDF file), an autism advocate who has provided such studies to many states. That study indicated the measure would create only a 0.47 percent premium cost, roughly a tenth of the current rate of inflation.
“That translates to less than one-half penny for every dollar in premium costs – a number consistent with a cost provided to House leaders last year by the Oklahoma State Employees and Education Group Insurance Board,” he said. “Certainly, such a negligible cost would not drive up the number of uninsured Oklahomans while providing needed benefits to families struggling to care for their autistic children.”
The 10-page study was prepared by James N. Bouder, MPA, who has prepared similar studies for a number of states. Both his methodology and the results he produced have been accepted as sound by analysts in several states, including Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Florida. Gumm called the study “unimpeachable.”
Gumm criticized the Speaker for continuing an effort begun last May by House Republicans to question Bouder’s credibility because he has an autistic child.
“They never miss a chance to note that Mr. Bouder has a child with autism, trying to suggest that in some way calls into question his motivations,” Gumm said.
“The fact they continually miss is that his numbers have been confirmed by real world experience in states that ended insurance discrimination against autistic children. Despite their best efforts, Mr. Bouder’s numbers are sound, his credibility is intact.”
The lawmaker said he was encouraged by a promise by House Republicans to unveil a plan to help autistic children over the next few weeks.
“I look forward to seeing their package to deal with the autism epidemic; anything is better than the House Republican leadership’s pathetic record on this issue up to now,” he said. “However, absent some kind of private insurance component, anything they propose likely will fall short and leave thousands of Oklahoma’s children behind and put cost solely taxpayers.”
“I just wish they would choose to be heroes for Oklahoma’s children.”
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