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Putting a price on autism in Oklahoma

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: October 27, 2008 at 12:50 am •  Published: October 27, 2008
uot;It was nice just to have that money to really do some intensive treatment with him.”

Parents in the program were told how the money could be spent and what services might be best for their child, Decker said. Each family drew up a budget on how the money would be spent.

Decker said her family spent about $7,000 a year and would have spent more had more services been available.

Most of the money her family spent was on applied behavioral analysis, which most insurance companies don’t cover, she said. Other expenses were for therapy for her son and occasional baby-sitting expenses.

She said she spent more than the program’s average because her family was able to hire applied behavioral analysis tutors from their public school district. Because of the applied behavior treatment, her son now can answer "yes” and "no” questions, she said.

Nicholson said the pilot program also looked at ways families with autistic children could support each other. But results showed parents were so exhausted from taking care of their own children they were too weary to take on the task of helping others, he said.

Of the 30 families selected to take part in the program, 15 were from the Oklahoma City area and 15 were from the Tulsa area.

Several parents who came to the state Capitol earlier this year to speak in favor of autism legislation said they pay thousands of dollars each month for treatment for their children, with some traveling out of state for help. In most cases insurance won’t cover all the fees.

Senator vows new effort
A state senator unsuccessful this year in getting legislation requiring insurance companies to cover treatment for autism is vowing a renewed effort next session.

"Current practices in our state are discriminatory and nothing short of a travesty,” said Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant.

Gumm was the author of "Nick’s Law,” a bill that would have required health insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism.

The measure received support in the Senate by both Republicans and Democrats.

However, it was stopped by House Republicans.

House Republicans said they are concerned that health care is less affordable and less accessible when mandates are imposed.

Several parents of autistic children who came to the state Capitol earlier this year to speak for the bill said they want the insurance industry to realize autism is a medical issue.

Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau


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