Modified: May 16, 2008 at 2:34 am •  Published: May 16, 2008
Autism insurance plan remains contentious
Oklahomans might pay 5 percent more for insurance coverage if treatment for autism is required as proposed in pending legislation, a legislator said Thursday.

Rep. Ron Peterson, a House chairman who twice blocked an autism measure from being heard in his committee, said his findings dispute a study released this week that showed mandating insurance coverage for autism would increase rates less than half of 1 percent.

Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, said insurance companies set prices based on actual exposure instead of assuming no one with a disease will ever file a claim.

Statistics indicate 6,289 Oklahomans between the ages of 2 and 20 have autism, but just 1,894 would be guaranteed autism coverage under Senate Bill 1537, which is authored by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm.

Peterson said if all 1,894 autistic children received the full $75,000 in annual benefits proposed under Gumm's measure, Oklahomans could pay an additional $142 million per year for insurance.

That amounts to a 5.2 percent increase, Peterson said.

Gumm, D-Durant, said Peterson's comments show "a serious lack of understanding” about the autism situation.

"Every autistic child is different with different needs,” Gumm said. "To suggest that every autistic child presents the same exposure to the insurance industry is flat wrong and not born out by the experience in other states — or the experience of parents of autistic children.”

Lawmakers uphold veto of trespassing bill
The Oklahoma House sustained another of Gov. Brad Henry's vetoes Thursday, falling short of overriding Henry's rejection of legislation supporters said strengthens landowner rights against trespassers.

The House's Democratic minority largely supported the Democratic governor in sustaining the veto although six Democrats, mostly from rural areas, voted with Republicans to override Henry's veto and allow the bill to become law without his signature.

The House voted 62-35 to override, six votes short of the number needed. It takes two-thirds of the 101-member House, or 68 votes, to override a gubernatorial veto.

It was the second time in less than a week Democrats blocked Republican attempts to override Henry's veto.

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