Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Politics of Ignorance

Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for United States Senate in Nevada, was caught on video trash talking insurance coverage for autism treatments. You can see listen to her remarks on YouTube yourself but what she said was -
"Take off the mandates for coverage in the state of Nevada and all over the United States. But here you know what I’m talking about. You’re paying for things you don’t even need. They just passed the latest one, is everything that they want to throw at us now is covered under 'autism'"
If you watch at the video, you can see her make air quotes around the word autism.


I don't like to talk about politics because subject is typically a land mine in this country. If you think people in the autism community are touchy, try and have a rational political discussion with someone.  But, I didn't think I could let these statements without comment.

While most the of the criticisms about her remarks have centered on the use of air quotes around the word autism, I think that misses the larger issue.  Sure, if you think the term autism belongs in air quotes and parents are just lining up to get their kids an autism diagnosis because of the perks, then you are just ignorant of what autism is. But parents whose children have autism have to deal with that type of ignorance all the time, so it isn't a surprise that a politician would say it.

No, what I find more troublesome is the opposition to insurance coverage of autism treatments. The law that this women is opposing is not some radical plan that covers off the wall treatments for the autism, it is a law that forces insurance companies to pay for the basics -
Requires private health insurance companies to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder.· Coverage of treatments will be provided when prescribed for an individual diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder by a licensed physician or a licensed psychologist who determines the care to be medically necessary.· Coverage will be provided to individuals under the age of 18, or through the age of 21 if the individual is enrolled in high school. Coverage under this bill is subject to a maximum benefit of $36,000 annually for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.·The bill includes coverage of the following treatments when written into a treatment plan: Habilitative or rehabilitative care, Prescription drugs, Psychiatric care, Psychological care, Therapeutic care (Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy), and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and behavioral therapies.· The bill defines "behavioral therapy" as "any interactive therapy derived from evidence-based research, including, without limitation, discrete trial training, early intensive behavioral intervention, intensive intervention programs, pivotal response training and verbal behavior"
I find Sharron Angle's opposition to this law very troubling because by opposing insurance companies paying for medically necessary autism treatments she is effectively opposing using these treatments for autism.

Let me explain.

All of the services covered by this law are provided by trained professionals and the services of these professionals do not come cheap. For example, assume that you have a child receiving speech therapy one time a week from a trained speech therapist, that would run you about $5,000 a year. Add in OT and you have another $5,000 a year. When you add in behavioral therapy such as ABA those costs go up substantially, at least another $15,000.

Put that all together and you are talking at least $25,000 a year per child and most of the time much more. 

Now consider that there are many families, like mine, where there is more than one child with autism. If I had to pay for all of the core treatments out of pocket, I would be paying at a minimum $60,000 a year.   If I could pay for these services out of pocket I would, but that is just not feasible.  My family relies on my private health insurance as well as the programs from the state to pay for these services.

Don't get me wrong, I am not looking for a handout nor do I feel that I am somehow entitled to these services. But services like these are the best chance that my children have at being able to live productive, independent lives.  It is in society's best interesting to have as many of the children like mine as possible learn to live independently.  The alternative is even more expensive.

So when Sharron Angle is advocating against insurance paying for the basic autism treatments, she is basically saying that she is against treated autism because very few families cannot afford these services on their own. And that means that Sharron Angle is against giving your child who happens to struggle with autism the help that they are going to need if they are going to overcome their autism.  So, let me but this bluntly.  If you have a child with autism and vote for Sharron Angle you are voting against your child's future.

The country doesn't need any more elected officials who are badly ignorant of the realities of "autism".

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