Archive for July 10th, 2008

Who Covers the High Costs of Autism?

In the past decade the amount of money spent on treatment for Autism has jumped from $50 million annually to $320 million annual – in the state of California alone.  This is over 600% and rising!  Throughout the U.S. the amount is hovering at about $90 billion and is expected to double within the decade.  Research is on the rise – with NIH looking at testing non-traditional treatment to see what might work.

While autism is seemingly getting attention, there is a huge runaround occurring between parents of autistic children, insurance companies and the states.  This runaround is being played out throughout the country in the majority of states.  With autism having become more prevalent over the past ten to fifteen years, the demand for services has risen substantially.

Parents are doing what they can, but it is estimated that the cost to treat a child with autism for one year is often over $70,000.  Most families cannot afford this amount, so they rely on their insurance to offset these costs.  Unfortunately, many insurance companies and PPO’s will diagnose autism, but will not cover the cost or provide most of the treatment that they suggest when diagnosing the issue. 

Insurance companies say that this is because they can only provide services that are medically necessary, and they do not cover services that can be obtained elsewhere, such as through schools and other community programs.  Insurance companies also say that they do not cover procedures and services that are considered experimental, and that a lot of the proposed treatments for autism are still in the experimental stages.

As far as the states go, it has been charged that they are not doing their job either because they are handing care for individuals with autism over to the insurance companies.  As a result, while parents – especially those not covered by state benefits and other resources – continue to pay premiums and not receive services they need, the state and the insurance companies continue to go back and forth.

Enough parents are frustrated with the situation that some class action law suits have been filed in an effort to force the state and the insurance companies to take action and help families with autistic children.  While this issue plays out, children are not getting enough care and parents are not getting enough help.  Hopefully these law suits will help stop the debate and help families who need it.

Add comment July 10th, 2008

Conroversial Autism Treatment Could Merit NIH Study

Autism, which is a group of disorders that impedes a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others, has long been considered to have no cure.  This fact, coupled with the concern and sometimes desperation of parents whose child suffers from autism,   has created a sort of underground market for testing for cures – or at least, help – that is not exactly in the medical books or supported by most doctors and practitioners who deal with the help and care of children with autism.

One treatment that until now has stayed under the radar, yet has reportedly helped many children with autism is called chelation. This treatment is not considered a proven treatment for autism, in fact many scientists, doctors and other practitioners feel that it is not a safe treatment and will not actually help children battling with the disorder.

Many patents feel quite differently. They have tried other treatments – both talk and behavior therapy and medication – without results.  When they have tried non-traditional treatments – especially chelation – they say the results are much different and much more positive. 

The process of chelation which is already in use to help children and adults with lead poisoning and to work on other issues in adults, is considered an effective treatment for the purposes it is used for.   The argument on one side is that it is dangerous to kids with autism and it can redistribute the metals throughout the body, possibly depositing them into the central nervous system.  In addition, the medications and compounds used in chelation are said to lower the white blood cell count and cause rashes which are sometimes severe.

The argument on the parents’ side is that with very few other options and nothing else that has worked, it is worth trying anything to help their child.  Besides, in the sort of underground portion of the world of parents of kids with autism, there are a lot of reports of children who have improved a great deal through this process.

While the debate continues, the National Institutes of Health feels it is worth looking into and tests are warranted to see how well chelation works on autism, as long as the tests are safe and the guidelines are clear.  Many parents are holding their breaths and hoping that research and testing will get approved and funded.

Time will tell whether the testing will be authorized.  In the meanwhile, it might be important to take the phrase “father knows best” and bend it a little to state that parents know their child best.  Hopefully parents and their children with autism will get some answers and some relief soon.

Add comment July 10th, 2008


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