Autism Speaks has been working in many states to institute insurance parity for autism. “Parity” means that therapies to treat autism must be given on the same level as other medical conditions.
One big loophole in this is that many insurance programs do not fall under state law. In the US, most people who have medical insurance get it through their employer. Generally, we all think that our employer buys a policy for us from some carrier like Blue Cross or Kaiser. But, what if the employer acts as the insurer? I.e. what if your company pays your medical bills? Well, one thing is that your company is not bound to follow state laws.
So, say you live in a state that has a parity law requiring that autism be covered, what then? Since the federal government doesn’t have insurance parity, you and your family don’t benefit from your state’s law.
You have to imagine this is one reason why companies self-insure.
Up to this point I think this is very good. I would encourage people to contact these leaders, as well as your own congressperson and senators.
However, the TV ad really bugs me. Take a look and form your own opinion:
To people in the autism community, I think the message is clear. Insurance means funding ABA to make a kid normal. The kid with insurance gets to play with other kids, the kid without insurance is left sitting on his own.
I am not anti-ABA, but I really don’t like that message.
I also am not wrong in my interpretation. From Autism Speaks’ site “autism votes”
“Neighbors” depicts two young boys who are next door neighbors – one, whose insurance has given him access to autism therapies is shown playing with other kids; the other, who has been deprived of access to therapies, sits alone on his lawn, socially isolated. The TV spot ends with a call to action, urging the American public to call United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to tell them that any national health care reform plan that does not include autism insurance reform is unacceptable.
Fourteen states have already acted to amend insurance laws and require insurers to cover medically-necessary, evidence-based autism therapies. In the other 36 states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of these behavioral therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services. Applied behavior analysis therapy (ABA), recognized as an effective, evidence-based treatment for children with autism, costs upward of $50,000 a year – a cost well beyond the means of most American families. A federal law would supersede state laws and require all insurers to cover ABA.
Again, I am not anti-ABA. I am against using ABA in an effort to make an autistic person (child or not) “normal”. Since this subject seems to come up in discussions of ABA, I will also make it clear that I don’t think any therapy should be mandated for autism. Mandating ABA is not the intent of this initiative, from what I can see.
Don’t let Autism Speaks or the commercial stop you if you support insurance parity for autism. It is a good cause.