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Insurance coverage for childhood stuttering passes Pa. House

A large government building with a green circular roof.
Kate Giammarise
90.5 WESA

Until he was 3, Brandon Markosek was not able to talk.

When he started speaking, he developed a stutter that lasted into adulthood.

“Some days are better than others, but I still do stutter,” he said. “My stutter never went away fully, but I was able to go to therapy.

There, he learned of various tools that he still uses today.

“I usually carry a bottle with me,” he said. “So if I get nervous or get stuck on a word, I take a sip of water to kind of calm my nerves.”

Markosek was able to afford therapy, but many are not.

Now that he is a state representative, the Allegheny Democrat is working to be an advocate for others who stutter.

His bill to ensure private insurance covers speech therapy for children aged 2 to 6 with stutters passed the House Wednesday in a bipartisan vote of 181-21.

Many insurance companies do not provide adequate coverage for speech therapy, according to theChildren’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“When you can get treatment early, you can stave off a lot of the bad things that come along with a stutter,” Markosek said. “So that’s really what we’re trying to do.”

Rep. Rob Mercuri, R-Allegheny, is cosponsor of the bill. He called it a compassionate and practical insurance bill that would help young people achieve their “dreams by overcoming childhood stuttering and speech challenges.”

The Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association and its national association, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, are supportive of the measure, PSHA President Dana Bitetti said.

Initially, the bill focused on all stuttering but was amended to tailor the scope to children.

This is because most health care plans in Pennsylvania cover adult stuttering, Markosek said.

Receiving speech therapy early can help lower the chances a child continues stuttering, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

It now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate.

Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chair John DiSanto, R-Dauphin, declined to comment.