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Ex-NBA player scores victory with Kentucky bill to expand coverage for stuttering treatment

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Former basketball star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored a victory Thursday as a leading advocate for a new Kentucky law that will expand insurance coverage for people seeking treatment for stuttering.

Kidd-Gilchrist, who played on a national championship team at the University of Kentucky and spent several years playing in the NBA, opened up about his own struggles with stuttering.

He appeared before Kentucky lawmakers to endorse the bill, which sailed through the Republican-dominated legislature and was signed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

At a bill signing ceremony Thursday, Kidd-Gilchrist spoke about the accomplishment he hopes will have a lasting impact for others striving to overcome speech difficulties.

“I weathered the storm of being picked on, teased and such like that,” he said. “I just want to thank you guys — just being heard at this magnitude. I’m not just a national champion here anymore. I’m a person who made a real impact in this state. I want to thank you guys for the opportunity.”

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

On Thursday, Beshear praised the Kentucky bill — Senate Bill 111 — that will require insurers to cover speech therapy costs to treat stuttering.

“Speech therapy can make a world of difference and now everyone is going to be able to have that coverage,” the governor said.

During a Kentucky Senate debate on the bill last month, Republican state Sen. Whitney Westerfield spoke about the obstacles many people face in getting the treatment they need.

“There are a lot of Kentuckians … who either don’t have coverage, have coverage and it’s limited by these arbitrary caps — say 20 visit therapy sessions and that’s it — regardless of what your need is,” he said. “You might need 10 times that many. But you can’t get it.”

Westerfield, the bill’s sponsor, on Thursday gave the credit to Kidd-Gilchrist for the bill’s success.

“It’s his story and he’s the reason this bill is here,” Westerfield said.

In a recent op-ed, Kidd-Gilchrist pointed to his ties to Kentucky and his efforts to help other people struggling with stuttering. He wrote that he’s traveled the Bluegrass State to “hear testimonies” from people who stutter and advocate on their behalf.

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

“A primary obstacle to treatment for those who stutter is the way that insurance coverage is structured for this condition,” he added.

Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press

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