|Kudos to Sen Josh Green, MD--sponsor of SB668. Thank you for your foresight and compassion and efforts to make Hawaii a better place for Hawaii's autistic children.|
It wasn’t without a lot of help from HMSA (what Blue Cross/Blue Shield is called in Hawaii). They lobbied very hard against this bill, which would have provided up to $50,000 per year in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services--the recognized standard-of-care for autism. And they blatantly lied to the State’s Health and Human Services Department, falsely telling them this bill would cost them $42 million per year because the state’s Medicaid program would be required to cover ABA costs for kids in the program—despite the fact that there was language in the bill that specifically said Medicaid would not be included.
Rep. Della Au Belatti (representing District 24—that’s you, Makiki, Tantulus, McCully and Papakolea) patted herself on the back, saying the bill had come the farthest it had ever come, so we could be proud of that. She said she knew “a few” states had already passed similar legislation, but there were “too many issues”. Apparently “a few” means TWO THIRDS to Rep Belatti. As an FYI, Rep Belatti, two thirds is more than HALF.
To date, THIRTY-TWO states have passed similar bills, and in no state is Medicaid required to cover ABA therapy for autism. As an FYI, a federal judge recently ordered Florida Medicaid to cover ABA for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children under the age of 21, effective April 2, 2012. Florida is appealing this ruling, but you should expect to see similar cases popping up around the country. In her ruling for the plaintiffs, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard's ruling that its denial of ABA coverage under Medicaid was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." The judge found AHCA's claim that ABA was experimental "outrageous."
|Green states have insurance reform; red and yellow are pursuing it. The bright green states are pursuing legislation to STRENGTHEN their existing bills.|
It is really hard for me to understand why the insurance companies come out so strongly against covering autism. There is now data from the states that have passed insurance reform that show the average cost is 31 cents per month per insured. That’s it—31 cents. That works out to less than $4 a year—barely enough for a Starbucks coffee. And the insurance companies can always spread the cost around—which is what insurance is all about, spreading risk—if they think this cuts into their profits too much.
To all those saying they don’t want to pay another penny to see autistic kids covered, to you I say you are paying a lot of dollars for those kids--that and go see if you can buy a heart. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the US and these kids go to public school, where their needed services are provided by the schools. That’s your tax dollars at work, and they will increase every year to continue to provide the kind of care insurance companies don’t have to pay for.
|Without insurance reform, in the end taxpayers will foot the bill...|
Then these children age out of the educational system, and your tax dollars pay to care for these kids—estimated by a Harvard researcher at over $3.2 million per person over the lifetime. So ask yourself why you are so keen to give the insurance companies a pass…
Yesterday’s events felt like a kick in the gut to me, yet my son, Ryan would not even be covered under this bill. As federal employees, my husband and I have federally-regulated insurance policies so are not affected by any legislation passed at the state level.
As I have said before, I am not a selfless person so I struggled with why I felt so completely miserable when our “legislators” failed to move the bill for a full floor vote. Of course I was incredibly disappointed that so many children will not receive desperately needed services that could result in their recovery—such a waste of human capital. I realized how very expensive it will become for my state to care for autistic children as they grow into autistic adults. The hours invested in getting this bill passed seemed to have been a waste, and my time is very valuable to me. But none those things really explained why I felt sick to the very pit of my stomach.
And then it hit me…it’s almost as if these folks in the legislature who represent our state are saying our children’s lives don’t matter. Autistic children are just not valuable enough to possibly risk some political capital for.
I see comments on-line where people make some pretty disgusting comments about kids with autism. I try not to let that bother me—most of these folks are clearly not intellectuals. It makes me wonder who the “special needs” people really are, in fact because whether these knuckledraggers realize it or not, society will pay to care for these children one way or another. We can choose as a society to care for these kids while they are young so they have a shot at leading an independent life, or we can pay exponentially more to keep them in state-subsidized group homes while receiving social security payments. To me the choice is clear.
To the Hawaii legislature, most especially Rep Au Belatti and Sen Ige, I want to say our kids matter.
They matter a lot.