By Kodey Toney
HB 2962, Autism Insurance
With the legislative season underway in Oklahoma there are several bills of interest to me, but one that particularly has my attention. This is something that I think will impact the future of my son, and other families coping with autism. This is why I have brought it to the attention of not only my legislators, but the legislators in my area.
I would like to share a little bit of what I let them know, because I truly feel that House Bill 2962, which will help families receive insurance for the services needed to help their children succeed in life, will be beneficial to the future of our families and Oklahoma as a whole.
I will paraphrase the letter that I sent to the legislators:
At the age of three my son, Konner, was diagnosed with autism. I began advocating for my son and in turn other families in Oklahoma to help find resources.
We receive therapies through our schools such as occupational, speech, and sometimes physical therapies, but the funding there is limited, and the hour or less we receive per week is not enough. So, we seek additional therapies.
The problem is that, because our insurance that we work so hard to pay for through our jobs as educators, does not cover these necessary therapies because insurance companies do not have to provide for autism in the state of Oklahoma. This is also true for Sooner Care recipients.
There are additional therapies that have been scientifically proven to help children with autism, and other related disabilities, improve their quality of life.
Among these is the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapies that help children with behavior issues, due to their disability, perform better in the classroom, work environment, and in public. However, due to the lack of insurance requirements we don’t have easy access to these treatments.
Autism Speaks only lists thirteen ABA therapist locations in Oklahoma, and those are concentrated in the metro areas. The lack of therapists in this state is due partly to the fact that they cannot bill the insurance companies for their services.
We are one of only five states that are still not seeking autism insurance reform.
Thanks to the therapies that my son is receiving he has reached milestones that we were told he would probably never see. However, he has a long way to go if he wants to lead a happy and productive life. Our goal for Konner is the same as any other parent I suppose.
We want him first and foremost to be happy and healthy. Then we want him to live a life where he is a productive citizen. We want him to be able to be a part of the workforce and give back the way we do.
The insurance that we are seeking can help him with this goal. It can help him cope with his deficits in the language and social skills that it will take for him to complete school, go on to higher education, and eventually hold a job in the workforce.
However, without these therapies he could fall into the cracks that we have seen all too often with children with disabilities. He would become dependent on the state and federal system for funding to help with his disability.
The insurance reform will be a huge step in many areas of the state on several levels. It will help with humanitarian goals by providing a better life for our more than 600,000 citizens who have a disability. More than 200,000 of them are without work.
We could increase our workforce in the future in several ways. One would be to create more jobs with the insurance reform. If you allow this modification you will see an increase in the number pursuing the certification in the state for ABA and other therapies.
This in turn can increase programs in higher education, jobs, revenue, etc.
In the long run, by providing those with autism a way to cope with the symptoms of their disability and learn how to function in a classroom, working, and public environment, then we can help them to become more productive citizens.
In short, we can provide this insurance, and spend a little money now to help create more revenue in the future and a future for our family members, or we can continue to do what we have and pay for disability related services and funding for the rest of their lives.
I am extremely grateful to Rep. Ed Cannaday and Rep. James Lockhart for signing on as co-authors for the bill. It shows their progressive nature in helping families in our area of the state.
I encourage you to contact these and any other member of congress to express your thoughts on this bill.