Markosek bill would offer health insurance coverage for treatment of people who stutter • Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Rep. Brandon J. Markosek (D-Allegheny) didn’t talk until he was 3 years old. And when he did, it was with a stutter.

Now, 30 years later, he is the prime sponsor of legislation ensuring access to speech therapy. This week, he brought a former NBA star from Philadelphia to help him.

Legislation approved by the House Insurance Committee Tuesday would offer speech therapy insurance coverage for those who stutter or have neurological trauma. Some private health insurance companies cover speech therapy, but many do not.

“When you treat stuttering early, it gives children confidence,” Markosek said. “Some of the things I learned in speech therapy I still use and think about every day.” He added that early access to speech therapy can be crucial for kids.

While Markosek’s insurance covered his childhood speech therapy, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, former player for the Charlotte Bobcats, didn’t meet his speech therapist until he was 18 years old. One year later, he was the second overall NBA draft pick.

Kidd-Gilchrist no longer plays professional basketball. Instead, he travels the country to meet kids who stutter.

He sat in Markosek’s office on Monday morning to talk about the speech therapy bill, surrounded by the retired player’s personal camera crew ready to film social media content. The pair opted for private meetings rather than a larger press conference to accommodate for stuttering.

“At an early age, I was always picked on, always teased,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I was just hiding in the background.”

Kidd-Gilchrist founded Change & Impact, a California-based nonprofit aimed at expanding healthcare access and services for those who stutter.

Between 5% and 10% of American children stutter for a period, ranging from weeks to years. About 3 million Americans stutter. While most children outgrow their communication disorders, 25% do not, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Markosek shared similar experiences from childhood—sitting in the corner of the classroom, getting called names and never raising his hand. A recent trip to Jersey Mike’s left an employee chuckling as he ordered at the counter. As a politician, talking is now a key point of his job description.

“It takes people to always talk about the issue,” Markosek said about getting the legislation on the floor. “And for those who stutter, it can be hard to talk.” 

Markosek serves as one of the only state-level elected officials in the country who stutters, to his knowledge. President Joe Biden, who has stuttered since childhood, has brought widespread attention to the speech condition at the national level.

Markosek was inspired by Kentucky’s recent law requiring private health insurance, Medicaid and the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover speech therapy for stuttering. Kidd-Gilchrist previously advocated for Kentucky to pass its speech therapy legislation.

Pennsylvania’s bill passed unanimously in the House Insurance Committee on Tuesday with an amendment removing Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program from the legislation.

Markosek and Kidd-Gilchrist were confident that the bill would go out to the House floor soon after.

“This is about our livelihood,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.



Originally published at penncapital-star.com,by Sarah Nicell

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