[Note: Shared for #AutisticHistory archive purposes. This is NOT An Autistic Ally.]
‘Lawmakers Push To Mandate Insurance Coverage For Autism:’ Honolulu Star-Advertiser
February 12, 2012
HONOLULU (Feb. 12, 2012)I – “A bill that would require health insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment for autism is poised for passage next week by two Senate committees, a move intended to help youngsters get vital early therapy.” Lorri Unumb, Esq., (right) Autism Speaks vice president for state government affairs, testified before the Senate Health Committee.
Lawmakers Push To Mandate Insurance Coverage For Autism
Susan Essoyan, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Feb. 12–A bill that would require health insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment for autism is poised for passage next week by two Senate committees, a move intended to help youngsters get vital early therapy.
“We think it’s time to take action and make significant inroads on autism,” Sen. Josh Green, Health Committee chairman, said Wednesday after conferring with Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chairwoman of the Consumer Protection Committee, at a joint hearing. “We do intend to move the bill forward.”
A vote on Senate Bill 2631 is set for Tuesday during a joint meeting of the Health and Consumer Protection committees.
If the bill is ultimately passed and signed into law, Hawaii would join a growing number of states that are requiring private insurers to cover treatment for autism. At least 29 states have passed such legislation, most in the past five years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
California, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia took action last year.
In its current wording, the bill would require coverage of screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder for individuals through age 25 with a $50,000 annual cap on behavioral health treatment. It will be revised before the vote to include a lifetime cap as well and to clarify that only therapy by credentialed providers would be covered, said Green (D, Milolii-Waimea), a physician who introduced the measure.
Autism is a developmental brain disorder that hampers the ability to communicate and interact socially and can cause disruptive behavioral problems. The condition has no cure, but early intervention can help overcome its disabling aspects. The most common treatment involves intensive, individualized behavioral therapy, which has traditionally not been covered by medical insurance.
Hawaii legislators have considered mandating insurance coverage for autism in recent years but declined to act after the state auditor advised against the move in 2009. The auditor said educational and health services for children with autism were available through the Department of Education and the Department of Health. But the Health Department noted at the time that private insurance treatment is needed to supplement existing services, and advocates say treatment is limited in the public schools.
Insurers oppose the legislation as an “unfunded mandate” that could require them to pay for ineffective therapies.
“Since these services are already being provided through public entities, passage of this mandated benefit would represent a huge cost shift to the private sector, specifically to employers who provide the lion’s share of health care coverage in the state,” Jennifer Diesman, vice president for government relations for Hawaii Medical Service Association, testified Wednesday. Kaiser Permanente Hawaii also submitted testimony in opposition.
Legislators heard from parents, behavioral therapists and Dr. William Bolman, president of the Autism Society of Hawaii, who argued that while therapy may be costly, it transforms lives and ends up saving money in the long run because otherwise people with autism can end up as lifetime wards of the state. The lifetime cost, both direct and indirect, of caring for a person with autism was pegged at $3.2 million in a Harvard School of Public Health Study.
“All the research shows that throwing a lot of money into treatment early, that’s the most effective,” said Bob Badger, an attorney whose son started treatment before age 3 and made great progress. “It’s the cheapest way out and it’s the right thing to do.”
Also testifying Wednesday was Lorri Unumb, vice president of state government affairs for Autism Speaks and author of one of the first autism insurance laws, passed in South Carolina in 2007. In the five states that first required autism insurance, premium costs rose on average 25 cents per month per member as a result, Unumb said.
“I gave up my legal career to advocate full time for individuals with autism when I saw the inequity in the insurance arena,” Unumb said. She and her husband spent $75,000 a year on therapy for her son, now 10, that wasn’t covered by insurance, but most families can’t afford that, she said.
The number of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder has shot up in recent decades, and the Centers for Disease Control estimates 1 out of 110 children in the United States has the condition.
In Hawaii, the number of students with autism spectrum disorder in the public school system has risen nearly 28 percent since 2006, to 1,298 students age 3 to 21 as of Dec. 1, 2010, according the state Department of Education. That represents less than 1 percent of overall enrollment.
Sherri Henriques choked up as she told legislators of the challenges her family has faced in getting help for her son, who crossed the room to sit beside her when she broke down, leaning his head into her shoulder.
“It has been an extremely difficult journey and has put a burden on our family emotionally and financially,” Henriques said. “Most of the cost of various treatments and therapies that our son has received has been paid by my husband and me. We have depleted all of our personal savings, our IRAs. … The great news is that our son, now 8 years old, is doing very well. He is no longer receiving special education services and is excelling in a regular public school classroom.”
The Autism Community Is Not The Autistic Community
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.