Tahlequah, OKC Legislators Oppose Measure which Poses a Threat

To Autism Law that’s Been on Books for Barely Four Months

OKLAHOMA CITY (24 February 2017) – It took at least four attempts in eight years before the state Legislature required insurance carriers – in a law that went into effect Nov. 1, 2016 – to provide coverage for autistic disorders. The victory may be short-lived, state Rep. Matt Meredith lamented Friday.

House Bill 1712 by Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, and Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow, would allow any “domestic insurer … transacting business in this state” to “offer a health benefit plan that does not contain one or more regulated health benefits.”

During debate on the measure in the House Committee on Insurance, Meredith, D-Tahlequah, asked, “What will this bill do to the autism bill that passed last year?”

Moore told Meredith that the bill the Legislature passed in 2016 would not be repealed, but services could be eliminated from insurance coverage options.

HB 1712 conveys the impression that legislators are “more concerned with the bottom line than what insurance will cover,” said Rep. Shane Stone, D-Oklahoma City. Oklahomans “will be hurt by what we are doing in this committee today,” he warned.

Moore’s bill received a “do pass” recommendation from the Insurance Committee in a 6-4 vote Feb. 21 – Meredith, Stone, and Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, were among the opponents – and awaits a vote by the entire House of Representatives.

House Bill 1712 “would effectively undo the legislation which the Legislature passed last year, regardless of what Representative Moore told me,” said Meredith, D-Tahlequah.

House Bill 2962, by then-Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, requires insurance coverage for autistic disorders. The bill passed both the House and the Senate in split votes last year and was signed into law by the governor. Moore, chairman of the House Insurance Committee, and Brown, a retired insurance agent, both opposed HB 2962.

Meredith’s predecessor in House District 4, then-Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, introduced three bills during his tenure (HB 1312 in 2009, HB 1624 in 2010, and HB 2529 in 2012) in efforts to make insurance coverage for autistic disorders compulsory, but all three measures died. In fact, Moore made the “do not pass” motion in 2009 that killed Brown’s HB 1312 in the House Committee on Economic Development and Financial Services, the House Journal shows.

Meredith, who manages his family’s insurance agencies in Tahlequah and Muskogee, voted against Moore’s HB 1712 and vowed to oppose the measure if it is brought to the House floor for a vote.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There are many types of autism, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.


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Oklahoma House of Representatives
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