[Note: Shared for #AutisticHistory archive purposes. This is NOT An Autistic Ally.]
LA Times’ David Lazarus: ‘Autism treatment law again shows insurers’ need for therapy’
October 11, 2011
In a column and video in the Oct. 11 edition of the Los Angeles Times, columnist David Lazarus reacts to Gov. Brown’s enactment of SB.946, the autism insurance reform billl.
“When I read that Monday, my first thought was: Why aren’t such treatments already covered?”
Autism treatment law again shows insurers’ need for therapy
Cost is at the forefront of why health insurers had balked at including coverage for treatments associated with autism, which requires not just medical care but also extensive educational, behavioral and vocational support.
October 11, 2011| David Lazarus
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill requiring health insurers to include coverage for treatments associated with autism.
When I read that Monday, my first thought was: Why aren’t such treatments already covered?
But my question was quickly answered by a statement from the California Assn. of Health Plans, an industry group, which warned that the new law will “drive up healthcare costs for families and businesses by nearly $850 million a year.”
In other words, it’s all about the money.
California’s new law highlights the fact that an insurance system led by profit-focused market forces often leaves people out in the cold. It also shows that government clearly has a role to play in healthcare when private companies fail to meet the responsibilities of a civilized society.
Autism, like nearly all chronic conditions, is expensive. It requires not just medical treatment but also extensive educational, behavioral and vocational support.
A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that direct medical and nonmedical costs for a severely autistic person can run as much as $72,000 a year. People with milder forms of autism can face costs of about $67,000 annually.
No wonder health insurers don’t want a piece of that action. It’s like having a hole in your pocket.
But what’s the alternative? Leaving families of people with autism to fend for themselves?
Insurers have long argued that behavioral therapy, such as teaching autistic children to interact with others, is not medical treatment, and therefore shouldn’t be covered by medical insurance.
They also fret about the slippery slope of having to cover other behavioral therapies, such as group homes for people with schizophrenia. “One of our concerns is what this could lead to down the road,” said Nicole Evans, a spokeswoman for the California Assn. of Health Plans.
Patient advocates say insurance should cover whatever works.
“The only people who don’t think of behavioral therapies as a medical treatment are insurance companies,” said Kristin Jacobson, co-founder of the Alliance of California Autism Organizations and a leading proponent of the new state mandate.
“The rest of the medical community is united in seeing these treatments as medically necessary,” she said.
I honestly don’t know how parents of autistic kids cope with the myriad challenges that accompany the disorder.
My wife and I are friends with a couple who have two severely autistic children. It’s only because the father pulls down a hefty paycheck (from, as it happens, a major pharmaceutical company) that they can cover the various therapies required to try to give their kids something like a normal life.
For the mother, it’s a full-time job staying on top of things. She often looks like she’s just wandered back from a war zone.
Marcia Eichelberger is president of the Autism Society of California and mother of a 19-year-old with autism. She said there’s no question that receiving behavioral therapy has given her son a chance at independence and helped keep him from even costlier institutionalization.
“Had we not done these types of interventions with our son, his frustration level would have been so great that he couldn’t have stayed at home with his family,” Eichelberger said.
California’s new mandate — SB 946 — was authored by state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). He hailed Brown’s approval of the bill as “a critical victory for thousands of California children and families. For many of them, having this therapy covered by their insurance is the difference between despair and hope.”
Twenty-six other states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar mandates for coverage of people with autism.
The California Assn. of Health Plans says that many treatments are already covered in one way or another. The state does have programs to assist autistic people, although those programs are increasingly jeopardized by budget cuts.
The association also emphasizes that the new mandate for coverage will cause premiums to increase for individuals and employers.
“At a time when lawmakers voice concern about rising healthcare costs, it makes no sense to sign a new law that will raise healthcare costs by $850 million a year,” said Patrick Johnston, the group’s president.
That sky-high number comes from a study commissioned by the industry group. A separate study for the state Legislature by the California Health Benefits Review Program estimated that the cost to insurers of implementing the law would be closer to $93 million.
Whatever the actual cost, the bottom line is how we, as a society, address the healthcare needs of those less fortunate than ourselves (assuming that your kids aren’t autistic and you’ll never have direct need of these therapies).
The Autism Community Is Not The Autistic Community
More With Autism Votes
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.