The state Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday that requires health insurers to cover the treatment of children with autism. The bill by state Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, requires coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders in individuals under the age of 9.
"What this bill does is make that treatment option affordable and available first for children that are covered by a private insurance provider, and soon following, our SoonerCare recipients as well," Griffin said.
Under the measure, children would have access to applied behavior analysis for up to 25 hours a week, with a limit of $25,000 a year. Autism spectrum disorders affect how a person processes sensory information and their ability to interact and relate to others.
Two of Tara Hood's three children have an autism spectrum disorder. She said the diagnosis is life-changing, but therapy and treatment can help a child have what she called a "normal" life.
"However, in Oklahoma, you find out that private insurance, health insurance is not required to cover anything related to autism," Wood said. "So it's a double kick in the gut in Oklahoma to get that autism diagnosis. You know there's therapy. It's life-changing, and you can't access that therapy unless you have a significant amount of money."
The Senate voted 36-5 for the bill, and sent it back to the House for consideration of the Senate amendments. Oklahoma's lower chamber passed a version of the bill last month on a 76-20 vote.