Special interests, read the health insurance lobby, once more prevailed and Hawaii’s bill to require health insurers to cover autism was again defeated—this despite strong support from both houses. In the end, for a second time, Senator David Ige was the key to the bill’s defeat.
|Senator Ige, gubernatorial hopeful...seeking campaign contributions from HMSA?|
Similar legislation has now been passed in 36 states, and we thought Hawaii was positioned to become number 37. There was compelling testimony about the burden of paying for therapy that families must shoulder on their own; we heard from families who sold their homes and cashed in their retirement accounts to pay for ABA therapy.
Obviously Senator Ige does not have the interests of Hawaii’s families at heart. Being an island state, relocating somewhere that has autism insurance reform is not as easy as crossing state lines. Our families have to make an overseas move and leave behind their extended family and friends—their support system—to help their children.
It is particularly sad that Senator Ige is so short-sighted and cares more about the support of the health insurance industry. I’m sure he would say he’s concerned about the cost to the State by enacting this legislation; however, the cost associated with this type of legislation is not theoretical any longer. Data collected from other states that have autism health insurance reform show cost savings to the states and the cost impact to health insurance premiums averages 31¢ per month per insured.
Senator Ige knows these figures. His “compromise” position was to pay for another independent actuarial study—one was done this year already. As he diddles around, more children will see their potential extinguished by not getting the treatment they need while young.
The cost of not treating these children is staggering. Dr. David Fray, Chief of the Department of Developmental Disabilities at the Hawaii Department of Health testified that the state pays $200,000 to $900,000 PER YEAR to care for EACH of the 360 adults with autism that receive services through the state. That’s your taxpayer dollars and as the population of autistic children continues to grow, so too will the public contribution to care for them as they reach adulthood.
A reasonable question is, “Why are the insurance companies the only ones getting a pass?” Families, our school systems, and taxpayers carry this burden. It isn't fair and it doesn't make sense.
Families do the right thing and purchase health insurance for just this sort of medical catastrophe, only to find coverage for their autistic child is denied. To be clear, autism is a medical condition, yet for some reason we place the burden of providing therapy to autistic students, solely on the school system.
Have you ever wondered if it makes sense to have our public schools, which were designed to educate the masses, redirect their scarce resources from general education programs to provide intensive one-on-one therapy for autistic children? How has it become the schools’ exclusive domain to provide treatment for a medical condition?
Although there is no doubt about the morality or just basic decency of requiring health insurance coverage for autism, it also makes economic sense. Children who are treated when they are young often make great strides to independence and require little to no additional services as they reach adulthood. Doesn’t it make more sense to help these kids now?
Senator Ige doesn't think so. He thinks having the support of the powerful insurance lobby is more important for this campaign to be our state's next governor.
The prevalence of autism continues to grow, so much so that nearly everyone knows a family or someone affected by autism—this is especially true in Hawaii where we inhabit the same small land mass.
Senator Ige—the autism community will not forget you and your indifference to our ohana.