Saturday, August 15, 2009

town hall style

With all the screaming and yelling about death panels and unplugged grandmothers, an important news items almost slipped by me. The state of New Jersey just became the 15th state to require insurers to cover services for autistic children. ( These services include occupational, speech, and behavior therapies. The article in the Times notes that the high costs of these services is balanced, if not outweighed by eventual savings because kids with early treatment move more quickly into mainstream. They spend less time in expensive special needs classrooms.

Insurers don't like autism. There is no pill for it. The therapies needed are expensive. I have OK insurance through my job at a small liberal arts college. With my plan, speech therapy is covered if you have a stroke, or have a tongue malady, or if someone messes up your face. Speech therapy for autism is not covered. However, that does not mean that the costs of Martin's treatment aren't spread around. They're just spread out differently. The public schools handle most of the care for autistics kids. Once diagnosed by a doc and evaluated by a school administrator, a child has the right to services through the public schools. And when schools struggle to provide these expensive services, states sometimes step in so that they don't get sued. Ohio, for instance, has a $20,000 voucher program. We are in this program (hilariously named the "autism scholarship" because, congratulations, you're kid is autistic). It's the only way to get the services Martin needs without bankrupting ourselves. The public school simply couldn't provide enough services to help him progress significantly. So we take state money to purchase all the therapies I listed above.

To the citizens of Ohio, thank you. I thank you for your willingness to shoulder this burden with me. You each pay $1.75 a year to help Martin get out of special ed and into regular school. You pay less than two bucks annually so my kid can have a shot at a normal life. To my insurer, J. P. Farley, I hope the movement in New Jersey comes to Ohio soon. I hope Obama's plan goes through so you can't keep turning down people who have coverage (and pay steeply for it) and need treatment.

Why can't people against health care reform see that they are paying for everyone's health care already? Just in different formats? More important, when will we be the kind of people who are willing to embrace - rather than protest - the opportunity to take care of each other?


  1. I know. My mom has had some severe health issues. She ended up having long term treatment three seperate times. Because her issue was 'mental' (Bi-polar disorder that hit with menopause) the potential for inadequate coverage in the US would have been huge. Thankfully she was in the UK and covered under the NHS. She has had excellent care, and they've worked with her through the myriad of drug allergies and rough situations. She and my dad are thriving in a situation that, in the US would have likely bankrupted them. I'm glad you have the 'scholarship' for Martin. Every little bit helps.