It is a challenge to be born with autism. For parents of children affected by autism, the situation is also a challenge. It can become an almost-insurmountable challenge when the parents’ insurance provider does not cover autism treatment. Most U.S. states have already put guidelines into law that require health insurance companies to provide some coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism.
Health Coverage for Autism Treatment Varies in Each State
These laws, however, vary, depending on the state. Some states cap the amount that can be spent in a single child per year or for a lifetime. Some states provide more money for treating younger children than older ones. Others require that a child be diagnosed by the time he reaches eight years of age for autism coverage. As one can easily see, many of these state laws could use some improvement. The hardest battle, though, is in contending with states in which there is no coverage required for children with autism.
Mississippi, unfortunately, is such a state. There is, however, a glimmer of hope. In Mississippi, there have been two bills introduced that would require Mississippi’s health insurance providers to cover autism screenings, diagnoses, and treatment for children affected by autism until the child reaches the age of 21.
The Current Drive for Mississippi to Pass Autism Treatment Coverage
Although Mississippi lawmakers have voted on similar bills, they have failed to pass any of them. This time, however, the state’s autism community may have a better chance for the state to pass a mandate for insurers to cover autism screening procedures, diagnosis, and treatment. Mississippi’s secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, has a three-year-old grandson who has autism. His personal experience with autism may help convince his colleagues of the need for effective treatment of the condition.
Moreover, this year, more advocacy organizations in the autism community have become more involved in the struggle. Autism Speaks and other organizations have been outspoken in their support for these bills. In a state that has an estimated 10,000 children who have autism, this combined effort is much-needed.
If these bills pass, the state will require companies that provide health insurance to cover screenings, diagnoses, and treatment for children affected with autism until they reach the age of 21. If passed, the new law will cover all of the types of care proven to help children with autism. In addition to pharmaceutical care, psychiatric and psychological care will be covered. As many as 25 hours of Applied Behavior Analysis, a well-documented and effective treatment method that has been proven to help children with autism become successful in adulthood, will also be covered.
The bills will create an oversight process to help children with autism receive quality care. A state autism board will be created to issue and revoke licenses for Applied Behavior Analysis practitioners. They will also regulate the licensing of autism treatment professionals, as well as checking for any violations.
Without Insurance Coverage, Getting Help with Autism is Difficult
Without insurance, caring for a child with autism is a difficult road to travel. Parents have gone to extreme lengths to obtain needed treatment. Working extra jobs may keep parents from having needed down time or family time, but the need for treatment is so great that parents are willing to do whatever it takes to get their children the help they need.
Insurance Coverage for Autism is a Long-Term Investment in Mississippi’s Future
Some lawmakers in Mississippi may worry about the cost of autism coverage for the state’s children. This short-sighted thinking neglects to take into consideration the long-term financial advantage of providing autism coverage. According to a 2007 study conducted in the nearby state of Texas, early behavioral treatment for autism can save $208,500 for each child during 18 years of education. University of Southern Mississippi assistant professor Dr. Keith Radley brought the Texas study to the attention of frugal Mississippians, in the hope that they would take a long-term approach to the financial advantages of passing the bills.
Even the most conservative estimates find that there are at least 4,500 children with autism spectrum disorder in the state. With only that number of children involved, the state could realize a savings of $935 million just by passing the bill to mandate insurance coverage for early behavioral interventions. These numbers do not come from autism advocates, but rather from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA).
More importantly, treatment can make a positive impact upon the state’s children who are affected with autism. With this help, they can realize their great potential, enroll in universities and vocational schools, and contribute to the great pool of talent in America’s workforce.