Although Oregon’s next legislative session is 10 months away, work is already beginning on legislation to establish requirements for health insurance coverage of autism spectrum disorders and streamline the process of obtaining care.
A closed door work session was held at the Capitol on May 1, and included legislators, insurance industry representatives and autism advocates such as Portland resident Paul Terdal, the father of two autistic sons.
During the 2009 legislative session, Terdal made his first attempt at becoming involved in changing the laws regarding insurance coverage of autism. His efforts were limited, though, as he talked to some legislators but didn’t really lobby the issue.
By 2011, Terdal was much more active in the process. He helped work on a proposed law, Senate Bill 555. That bill made it through the Senate Health Care, Human Services and Rural Health Care Policy Committee and went to the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, where it stalled until the session adjourned.
With new figures in hand, a meeting took place in May with representatives of the Oregon Health Authority, the Public Employees’ Benefit Board, Sen. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) and Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland). Terdal said that everyone was in agreement that the initial analysis was incorrect. However, it was very late in the session at a time when lawmakers were struggling to balance the budget as revenues continued declining.
Buckley, who co-chairs the Ways and Means Committee, confirmed that popular programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families were still being cut, making it difficult to create or justify any new programs.
Finally, in February, a similar bill was introduced, Senate Bill 1568, but Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham), who chaired the healthcare committee, never called for a vote, saying she needed more details about its impact on the insurance industry.