Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The new health care legislation will have a huge impact on Americans with autism and their families. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny policies to autistic people when they (or their parents) apply for coverage. For people who have to buy insurance on the open market, this new provision will take them out of the insurance no-man's-land in which they've been living. According to the new legislation, insurance companies must also cover behavioral therapies that have typically been excluded in the past. The particular therapy that we used with Martin for a year and a half, ABA or Applied Behavioral Analysis, is among the therapies that will now be covered.

I've been trying to figure out if our family's biggest autism/insurance worry has been addressed by the legislation. My insurance plan, which I participate in through my employer, specifically excludes speech and occupational therapy prescribed for people with autism. As I've noted in earlier posts, if you have a stroke the company will provide speech therapy. If you break your hand and have trouble with handwriting, they'll cover occupational therapy. If you need those things because you're autistic, you are out of luck. That's the policy.

Some states have made this practice of exclusion illegal. I'm curious if the new legislation has taken care of it at the federal level so that the battle won't have to happen in 50 different places. But I can't find out. My Google searching took me only to a blogpost that made me sadder than I've felt for awhile. I'll paraphrase the post:

Why should parents of non-autistic children have to pay for expenses that ought to paid by autistic children's parents? We pay enough for insurance already. We struggle to make ends meet already. And autistic kids' parents want more of our money even though our kids are fine and their kid is a problem?

I'll stop paraphrasing there, but let me assure that the blogger - like so many cyber sages - only got meaner as the post continued. I sometimes forget that a lot of people simply never give a crap about an issue until it affects them. So no wonder passing legislation that moves us toward universal coverage has been so contested. If there are citizens with no mercy for autistic children, how will we ever be a country that offers support and care to people that lack autistic kids' cuteness and innocence? There are a lot of people in our world who aren't very cute and who contribute in some ways to their own suffering; but they need love and support nonetheless. Maybe I feel this way because I study prisons. And there is no better place than our prisons for seeing what results from large-scale neglect, shame, deprivation, and abuse.

We get the kind of society we are willing to pay for. If we don't want to help out autistic kids, we'll have a lot of stressed out families and lots of children who will be locked in their own worlds even though we have the resources to help them get out. But on the upside, there would be freedom ringing.


  1. While the voices of dissent are loud and mean there are many, myself included, that will gladly make the sacrifices necessary to make sure that everyone is able to get the health services needed. The health care problem in our nation is very real and unfortunately there are too many toads in a pot that are letting themselves get cooked because they do not realize that the temperature has been getting hotter and hotter. (MBS)

  2. I live in a state that has an insurance mandate, so I was able to get my son his own policy that covers his ABA, ST and OT when my husband's (Federal Gov't) policy wouldn't. I wonder, if the healthcare plan doesn't make your insurance provider change their policy, if you could get your son a policy of his own that would cover his therapies. It might be cheaper in the long run. As for the people of the internet, I have a friend who says "one day, we will all be the patient", and I think it's true. It's my hope that jerks like that are in the minority.