Mention the word autism and fear tightens around the hearts of parents. Seeing a child emotionally imprisoned and locked away from their love is a brutal and devastating truth for them. Most know the exact cause of the brain disorder, commonly known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is unknown and currently there is no cure. They know too that the neurobiological disorder will last through a child’s lifetime.
According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an estimated 1.5 million Americans are affected by autism. Each year the figure increases at a rate of between ten and 17 percent.
What exactly is the cost for upkeep and medical treatment of a child with autism?
CDC studies estimate the lifetime cost to care for an individual with an ASD to be $3.2 million. And the average medical expenditures for an individual with ASD exceed that of one without by $4,110-$6,200 a year.
Dr. Michael Ganz, Assistant Professor of Society, Human Development and Health at Harvard School of Public Health estimates direct medical costs: physician and outpatient services, prescription medication and behavioral therapies for a person with autism to be more than $29,000 for a year. And direct non-medical costs: special education, camps and childcare at more than $38,000 for those with lower levels of disability and up to $43,000 for those with higher levels. Annual indirect costs for children with autism and their parents range from more than $39,000 to near $130,000. He agrees with the CDC’s lifetime cost of $3.2 million in health care for a child with autism and stresses that caring for all people with autism over their lifetimes costs an estimated $35 billion a year.
Finding long term care for a child with autism is more important than their daily meals. While there are a variety of treatments available for any ASD, the parents of a child with autism face enormous challenges.
According to CDC the most common treatment involves a mixture of therapies and special education classes. Because of the wide variety in degrees of ASD, treatment options vary.
On June 9, 2010 the New York State Legislature passed legislation to protect families and children affected by ASD from the high cost of healthcare. The bill would amend existing insurance and public health laws so health insurance providers would cover the screening, diagnosis and treatment of ASD.
The Bill has been referred to New York Governor David Patterson for his approval.
It mandates that policies provide coverage for individuals with ASD throughout their lifetimes with no financial cap. Extending coverage and eliminating age and financial caps will allow families throughout the state to provide the necessary care for their children, without fear of incurring crippling financial debt.
“Providing insurance parity for the many individuals and families affected by autism is not only the right thing to do, but also the fiscally prudent course of action,” said Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, a key co-sponsor of the legislation.
Studies have shown that if children receive intensive early psychological, social, and medical treatment, they will have a higher level of functionality and are less likely to need lifelong state-funded support services. Cost analyses calculate that every dollar spent on early treatment will save $5-$7 in long-term health care costs.
“This bill enables families to provide necessary care for their autistic child at a fraction of the cost – for both the taxpayer and the affected families,” said Senator Oppenheimer. “Autism is a medical condition and should not be a barrier to health insurance coverage for thousands of New Yorkers. I urge Governor Paterson to enact it promptly into law.”