Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Well Written Argument for Insurance

Utah is considering similar coverage that is under consideration in HB1588. I had to post this because this mom just puts the arguments for insurance coverage so well.

Insurance coverage for autism an investment in the future
The Salt Lake Tribune
By Kim Kowanko

Why do you have insurance? I have it for peace of mind. If some medical problem emerges and the cost of treatment is too great, then my insurance will "insure" that my family and I can still get the needed treatment.

What if a new childhood disease develops? Would we assume that it would be covered by our heath insurance? Or do we expect to have to fight for coverage for every new disease? A new cancer would not be covered automatically; we would have to fight to have the cost of the treatments covered while fighting the disease ourselves or for our children.

Tragically, this is the situation faced by families with children who have autism. They are told that early intervention is key and that there are proven therapies that will drastically improve their child's outcome and thus their future. Once they start trying to initiate these proven treatments, they discover that their insurance doesn't pay for it. They are faced with the realization that they either have to liquidate their assets (if they are lucky enough to have assets) or not give their child a chance to have a full life.

Ten years ago, autism was a rare disease. It affected 1 in 10,000. Now, it's 1 in 150 nationwide. In Utah it's 1 in 133. We have the third highest rate of autism in the nation. It's an epidemic of disastrous proportions and it's getting worse, not better.

If this doesn't scare you, it should. What will society look like if 1 out of 133 people (1 out of 79 men) can't take care of themselves or interact appropriately with the community? What will we do with them? How much money will it cost? A Harvard study in 2007 estimated the cost to care for an individual with autism over a lifetime at $3 million!

At the rate autism is growing, odds are that you will eventually have a very personal reason for supporting early intervention and treatment. It might be your child, grandchild, niece or nephew or neighbor. We can't stick our heads in the sand and hope it will go away. It won't. We have to make good decisions that make sense economically and, most important, morally and ethically.

Senate Bill 43, Clay's Law, would require insurance companies to cover proven and medically necessary therapies for children with autism. If treated early, many children will enter mainstream kindergarten without the need for any kind of aid or special services.

Last time I checked, insurance companies were doing very well. They are not struggling financially to stay afloat like our schools are. So why do we allow insurance companies to discriminate against autistic kids and pass the buck to our schools?

A research and advocacy association of insurance carriers looked at 10 states that have passed similar laws. They found that the incremental cost of the benefits was less than 1 percent. Compare that to $3 million over a lifetime and even if you're the most cold-hearted bean counter on the planet you would have to agree that Clay's Law makes sense. And you would be right.

Let's hope that Utah's lawmakers are taking the time to learn about this devastating epidemic and analyzing the studies that show the cost effectiveness of early treatment and intervention. But most important, let's hope that they have a heart and care about all of Utah's children. After all, how much is a child's life worth?

Kim Kowanko is a full-time mom in Heber City. Her middle son has asperger's disorder.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

HB 1588 Goes to Subcommittee on Tuesday

This coming Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 2pm a subcommittee of the Virginia House Commerce and Labor Committee will be meeting to vote on House Bill 1588, the autism insurance reform bill. This meeting will decide the fate of HB 1588 and whether or not the bill will move forward.

HB 1588 will give thousands of families across the Commonwealth access to the autism therapies their children need by requiring private insurance companies to provide coverage for these services. The members of the House Committee need to be made aware of how much this legislation is needed by families in Virginia!

How Can You Help?

CALL the members of the Virginia House Commerce and Labor Committee:

Del. Terry Kilgore (Chair) (804) 698-1001
Del. Jennifer L. McClellan (804) 698-1071
Del. Frank D. Hargrove (Vice Chair) (804) 698-1055
Del. Kenneth R. Melvin (804) 698-1080
Del. Kenneth C. Alexander (804) 698-1089
Del. Harvy B. Morgan (804) 698-1098
Del. Kathy J. Byron (804) 698-1022
Del. Samuel A. Nixon Jr. (804) 698-1027
Del. Benjamin L. Cline (804) 698-1024
Del. Kenneth R. Plum (804) 698-1036
Del. Tim Hugo (804) 698-1040
Del Harry R. Purkey (804) 698-1082
Del. William R. Janis (804) 698-1056
Del. Thomas Rust (804) 698-1086
Del Johnny S. Joannou (804) 698-1079
Del. Christopher B. Saxman (804) 698-1020
Del. Joseph P. Johnson Jr. (804) 698-1004
Del. Mark D. Sickles (804) 698-1043
Del Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. (804) 698-1000
Del. Jeion A. Ward (804) 698-1092
Del. Daniel W. Marshall III (804) 698-1014
Del. R. Lee Ware Jr. (804) 698-1065

I am going to try to go through as many of the numbers as I can between now and Tuesday. I would love it if you would join me. With the limited treatment that Jimmy has received, he has improved by leaps and bounds. We don't know what causes autism and we can't cure it, but with treatment, the quality of life can be improved for those with autism. Autism is a treatable medical diagnosis. Medical insurance should cover treatment. Please support kids like Jimmy by supporting HB1588.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh. My.

First, let me apologize for the lack of posting lately. Last weekend, I had tonsillitis, no heat, and my 39th birthday. Now I have my final class for my license starting. I am getting my feet back under me, though, worry not. I think my posting for the next week or two will be fairly limited.

A few weeks ago, I went to a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe. During the event, I asked a question about autism. The whole thing was a little weird. To make it even odder, it was documented by the New Republic. The article is quite humorous. When they checked the quote with me, I was sort of in disbelief. The end result, however, was more than I could imagine. I am going to have to Google the author, Eve Fairbanks. I really enjoyed her article.

Yes, having Terry McAuliffe babysit my kid would be a patently bad idea. Truly. I just think that people have a perception of what autism is based on Rainman on one end and the things Denis Leary put in his book on the other. Sometime, a little illustration in the form of an hour with him fosters a lot of understanding.

From Eve's article:

"There will be some reluctant nonbelievers along the way, of course. From Leesburg, McAuliffe drives on to another brewpub in Manassas, where his performance rates nearly as high as it had in Leesburg. The hiccup comes during the question-and-answer session, a potentially perilous period for McAuliffe, given his zealous devotion to chicken waste and highway lightbulb repair. As he wraps up one answer, a trembling mother thrusts a picture of her autistic son, Jimmy, into his face and asks when Virginia will cover autism on its state employee health plan. But soon, somehow, McAuliffe's answer circles around to the extra lanes he wants to build on U.S. Highway 58, which runs from Virginia Beach to the Cumberland Gap. "We've got to four-lane 58 the whole way!" he exclaims, rocking back and forth like Rain Man. The crowd is quiet at their tables, and the realization descends on McAuliffe that something is not quite right. He pauses and peers hard at the mother, Rachel Kirkland. "Your child should be covered," he says. "I apologize for that."

"The divorce rate for autism parents is 85 percent," says Kirkland, her voice breaking.

"Right," says McAuliffe and falls, briefly, silent.

But there's nothing in this world that can't be fixed, and when Kirkland darts out before the meet-and-greet is over, a young aide trots into the drenching rain to follow up. To help McAuliffe gain sensitivity on the autism question, Kirkland suggests he drop by her son's classroom, or even come to her house and babysit little Jimmy. The idea of Terry McAuliffe babysitting an autistic child seems a patently bad one. But, in keeping with his boss's limitless spirit, the aide replies that this is "not outside the realm of possibility.""

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On the new White House website...

I hope this signals things to come...

"President Obama and Vice President Biden are committed to supporting Americans with Autism Spectrum Disorders (“ASD”), their families, and their communities. There are a few key elements to their support, which are as follows:

First, President Obama and Vice President Biden support increased funding for autism research, treatment, screenings, public awareness, and support services. There must be research of the treatments for, and the causes of, ASD.
Second, President Obama and Vice President Biden support improving life-long services for people with ASD for treatments, interventions and services for both children and adults with ASD.

Third, President Obama and Vice President Biden support funding the Combating Autism Act and working with Congress, parents and ASD experts to determine how to further improve federal and state programs for ASD.

Fourth, President Obama and Vice President Biden support universal screening of all infants and re-screening for all two-year-olds, the age at which some conditions, including ASD, begin to appear. These screenings will be safe and secure, and available for every American that wants them. Screening is essential so that disabilities can be identified early enough for those children and families to get the supports and services they need."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Heath Ledger wins a Golden Globe

That man died entirely too early for all that he had to offer his craft... His performance in Dark Knight was brilliant - though I thought he should have won the Oscar for Brokeback Mountain, his Joker made Nicholson's fade a bit in my memory, no small feat. He would deserve to win this time around, regardless of the circumstances.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

So I met Terry McAuliffe today...

We went over to Foster's today to hear Terry McAuliffe speak today. He is one of three men running to be the Governor of Virginia. Nice, very articulate and personable. He was so on-topic with his message about bringing jobs into Virginia to improve the economy that he didn't really answer the question I posed on autism. (I don't think I posed it well - I get so nervous talking in front of big groups and having all eyes on me. Heck, being on camera at school board meetings, I have a recurring nightmare about saying something stupid or picking my nose on TV!) Yes, it is a big question when you are asking about health care and education in the same sentence, but I kind of felt blown off a bit. I think you need a broader focus. Given where he is coming from, working for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, knowing their progressive platforms on autism during the 2008 presidential campaign, my expectations were clearly higher. He said at the beginning that he would answer questions and you might not like his answers. When I left, that's kind of what I thought... I just didn't like his answer. But as I have worked around the house today and cooked and pondered, I think I just didn't get one.

It's not that I don't get that things are bad - I probably get it better than most people. But I look at my son and his classmates, the kids I have met at the Matthew's Centers, my friends who have had kids diagnosed... Some kids with autism will go on to live fairly normal lives. I think the majority, unless their therapeutic needs are addressed by the medical community, if there isn't study into better treatments, if educational initiatives aren't fully funded - the majority have no or an extremely limited future. Do the math. In 2006, there were 4,265,996 children born in this country. Of those births, 28,459 will be diagnosed with autism. I know that there are differences in birthrates from year to year, but let's assume that number merely stays constant for ten years. That is 284,590 children who will grow up and only a small group of them will be able to hold jobs, live independently, marry, start families. Most will live with their families or institutions because there is no place for them in this world. It's a situation that is just unacceptable.

Anyway, didn't win my vote. Didn't lose it either. I am still out there. I am looking forward to meeting Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds during the campaign season to see what they are like and making my primary decision.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sad news...

Lexie Glover was found around lunchtime today in a shallow creek in Woodbridge today. Chief Deane says she was likely murdered.

Today is a tragic day for her family. May God be with them during this horrible time.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Missing Autistic Girl in Manassas

Alexis (Lexie) GLOVER
DOB: 02/26/1995
Missing 01/07/2009
Age Now: 13
Sex: Female
Race: Black
Hair: Black
Eyes: Black
Height: 5 ft 3 in
Weight 87 lbs
Missing From: Manassas, Virginia United States
Last seen, in the vicinity of Mathis Avenue, Manassas, Virginia. Subject was walking away from a vehicle at the time of the loss.

Subject was wearing a green/beige sweater and blue jeans with rhinestones on the front pockets. The subject was wearing white socks and sneakers. The subject wears pull-up style underwear. The subject has a pronounced limp and suffers from mild autism and bi-polar disorder.

(703) 792-6500

Has it really been this long?

Okay, I am going to get back to it and post something really good. Let me get to work...