Oklahoma Lawmaker Wants All Daycares Insured

By MICHAEL McNUTT | October 28, 2011

An exemption that allows some daycare operators not to carry liability insurance coverage should be removed, a state lawmaker told a legislative panel.

More than 1,500 home-based daycare operators and nearly 140 day care centers in the state don’t carry liability insurance because of an exemption included in a law passed three years ago, Rep. Mike Shelton told members of the House’s Human Services Committee during a meeting Tuesday.

Shelton in 2008 crusaded for passage of a bill called “Demarion’s Law,” which requires Oklahoma child care businesses to carry liability insurance to protect families of children injured or killed because of an operator’s negligence.

Day cares are required to carry a minimum of $200,000 of coverage. The law included an exemption, primarily for day cares operated out of a home, for day care operators who notify parents and others they don’t have liability insurance coverage.

If a day care operator is unable to obtain a policy for financial reasons, the new law will still allow the operator to remain in business if the Department of Human Services and all parents and guardians of children in the day care are notified in writing. The same is true if an underwriter can’t be found for the policy or if policy limits have been exhausted.

“Day cares having insurance is a good protection for everybody,” said Shelton, D-Oklahoma City. “Every licensed day care I want to ensure that they have insurance.”

Lesli Blazer, director of child care services for DHS, told committee members that about 92 percent of day care centers, or 1,571, have liability insurance while 139 do not.

In home day cares, 37 percent, or 933, have coverage, while 1,569, or 63 percent, do not, Blazer said.

Assistant Insurance Commissioner Rick Farmer told committee members liability insurance is not expensive. A typical liability insurance policy for a day care operator costs about $250 a year.

Kathy Cronemiller, who has been in the child care business for 28 years and is president of the Oklahoma Child Care Association, said it is a good business decision to have liability insurance.

“It’s not that expensive,” she said. “It’s another layer of protection for the child.”

Shelton said he doesn’t plan to increase the minimum amount of coverage for day care operators.

“The more important thing to do is make sure each one of them is covered,” he said.

The 2008 law is named after Demarion Pittman, a preschool child who was accidentally left in a hot van and suffered severe injuries that left him unable to walk or talk.

The boy’s mother, Edna Pittman, attended Tuesday’s legislative interim study and supported the proposal.

“I believe all centers should carry liability insurance because, unfortunately, accidents happen,” Pittman said. “You want to make sure the business owner is protected as well as the family whose child was injured.”

She said her son’s medical expenses totaled more than $2.5 million in a year and a half.

“There was nothing in place to help us defer some of the costs,” she said. “It’s important that all day care centers be insured.”

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