The Right Thing To Do
March 20, 2013

The Right Thing To Do

Health insurance is a topic of much contention in America. Well, it has been for decades. Health insurance for children with an autism spectrum disorder is no different as CNN Health reports. Many states mandate that health insurance covers treatment for autism, which is initially intensive and expensive, although both the expense and intensity drop with time. However, 18 states do not mandate it and Georgia is one of those. This is a story about autism and Georgia.

The story starts with Ava, a now eight-year-old little girl diagnosed with autism at age two. To look at her now, none would know that she has an autism spectrum disorder. That is because she underwent an intensive behavioral approach where children diagnosed with autism receive intense coaching that teaches basic skills that might come more easily to non-autistic children. The most focused on skills are communication.

These treatments require one-on-one sessions as well as group sessions and possible shadows and cost much for parents, especially parents in states where insurance is not required to cover the treatment. Ava’s mother was told she would never be able to afford the “Cadillac” treatment necessary to help her daughter. That did not stop her. She used her own savings, the college fund set up by Ava’s grandparents, and even credit cards.

She went into debt to help her daughter. And it was worth it. Ava functions just like her non-autistic peers now. Today, she only has one session a week to practice social skills, but the initial treatment was costly and time consuming. However, it paid off, which is why Ava and her mother, along with two other parents who have autistic children and suffer under the enormous cost of treatment, are lobbying for Ava’s Law, which would mandate insurance companies cover treatment for autism spectrum disorder treatment in Georgia.

According to the CNN article, mandating insurance coverage would likely save money in the long run because “one influential study from 2007 found the average lifetime cost of caring for a person with autism is $3.2 million, most of it due to lost productivity and adult care.” Yes, the short-term cost could be up to $50,000 per child per a year, but that is only during the initial intensive treatment. Without treatment, autistic children become autistic adults who will require care.

Furthermore, Autism Speaks, an advocacy group, completed an analysis of the 15 states that require autism coverage and found that the annual impact on premiums ranged from $1.20 in Illinois to $9.96 in Minnesota. That seems worth the mandate for all involved.

I do have an issue with insurance companies, to be sure. But I also believe that insurance saves lives in so many ways. Ava could have been one example of that. She could have been the spokesgirl for insurance companies instead of a young lobbyist on behalf of autism. Perhaps, if insurance companies did not pick and choose what to cover then more autistic children could seek the treatment needed to help them. Insurance costs money, but at some point isn’t life and health more important than money? Here, Georgia has the opportunity to help its citizens. And as Georgia State Senator John Albers, Republican, says, it’s just “the right thing to do.”

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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