Kentucky bill to expand coverage for stuttering services advances with assist from ex-NBA player

FRANKFORT, Ky.– The Kentucky Senate voted Thursday to expand insurance coverage for people seeking treatment for stuttering, and the bill’s sponsor credited a former basketball star with helping.

The Senate action to advance the bill came after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist endorsed the measure during a Senate committee hearing. Kidd-Gilchrist played on a national championship team at the University of Kentucky and then played in the NBA for several years.

But it’s his willingness to open up about his own struggles with stuttering that drew much praise Thursday.

“He is a hero and a gamechanger because he uses his position and his influence to do good for people who don’t have the resources he had access to,” said Republican Senator Whitney Westerfield.

Westerfield said his bill aims to help many more Kentuckians get the treatment they need.

“There are a lot of Kentuckians … who either don’t have coverage but they do have coverage and they’re limited by these arbitrary caps — say 20 visitation therapy sessions and that’s it — regardless of what you need,” he said. “Maybe you need ten times as many. But you can’t get it. And so unless you have gold-plated coverage, and most Kentuckians don’t, you end up having to try to pay for it out of pocket. ”

As a result, many people do not receive the care they need. But his legislation aims to change that, he said. The bill would eliminate these arbitrary caps and require expanded coverage for stuttering services, he said.

His Senate Bill 111 next heads to the House of Representatives. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.

Kidd-Gilchrist noted his deep ties to Kentucky and his efforts to help other people struggling with stuttering in a recent op-ed published in the Lexington Herald-Leader. He wrote that he has traveled throughout the Bluegrass State to “hear testimonies” from people who stutter and advocate on their behalf.

“I force myself to use the very thing that can be a struggle – my voice – to stand up for the community I represent and whose voices often go unheard,” he said.

“A major obstacle to treating people who stutter is the way insurance coverage for this condition is structured,” he added.

He said there is a “stunning lack of data” on the extent to which the public is aware of those who stutter.

“To prepare children and adults who stutter for success in life and an overall improvement in quality of life, it is imperative that they have access to all necessary procedures – from diagnosis to treatment to long-term maintenance of speech therapy,” he wrote. .

Speech therapy is the basis of stuttering treatment. 70 million people worldwide stutter and President Joe Biden has spoken publicly about being mocked by classmates and a nun at Catholic school for his own speech impediment. He said overcoming it was one of the hardest things he has ever done.