HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, October 20, 2008

Parents Press States for Autism Insurance Laws

The Washington Post reports that parents and an advocacy group, Autism speaks, are encouraging the passing of laws requiring health insurers to cover intensive and costly behavior therapy for autism.  Carla K. Johnson writes,

Gavel4In Washington state, Reza and Arzu Forough pay more than $1,000 a week for behavior therapy for their 12-year-old autistic son.

In Indiana, Sean and Michele Trivedi get the same type of therapy for their 11-year-old daughter. But they pay $3,000 a year and their health insurance covers the rest.

Two families. Two states. Big difference in out-of-pocket costs.

If autism advocates get their way, more states will follow Indiana's lead by requiring health insurers to cover intensive and costly behavior therapy for autism.

In the past two years, six states, Texas, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana,  passed laws requiring such coverage, costing in some cases up to $50,000 a year per child.

The powerful advocacy group Autism Speaks has endorsed bills in New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan and is targeting at least 10 more states in 2009, including New York, California and Ohio.

Other states, including Illinois, have similar bills in the works but aren't working directly with Autism Speaks.

"This is the hottest trend in mandates we've seen in a long time," said J.P. Wieske, a lobbyist for an insurance coalition that argues that these state requirements drive up insurance costs for everyone. "It is hard to fight them."

For lawmakers, voting against these measures means voting against parents who are struggling to do the best for their children.

Parents tell moving stories about how behavior therapy works better than anything they've tried. In two states, bills got nicknames like "Steven's Law" and "Ryan's Law," so voting against them was tough.

Arzu Forough of Kirkland, Wash., who is pushing a bill in her state, credits behavior therapy for teaching her son Shayan, at age 3, to make a sound to ask for a drink of water. Now 12, he is learning to converse about his favorite food and music, and to talk about his frustrations rather than throw tantrums.

Trained therapists, using principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), created a system of rewards to teach Shayan these skills. As a preschooler, he got a piece of cheese when he said "bubba" for water. Now a therapist rewards him with tokens when he responds in conversation. He uses the tokens to "buy" privileges like going for a car ride.

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Most of the children now being overdiagnosed with autism belong to rich people bullies, living in school districts with generous programs. These entitled parents cannot believe they have a defective child, and have to scapegoat the public for the cost of worthless treatment.

About 20% of children have not spoken by age 3. With 2 years of intensive treatment, natural, normal speech development will make these therapies look good. The most famous such child was Albert Einstein. He did OK without these garbage treatments.

The reason this bullying works is that vicious lawyer predators attack school districts and teachers with litigation ruinous even if won at first pleading. Thank a lawyer for the explosion of outrageously expensive garbage treatments. The rent seeking lawyer in Congress passed garbage laws to enforce garbage educations.

For $50,000, one could sent 4 educationally deprived but brilliant poor kids to private schools. If they have speech delays, the defective autistics will improve spontaneously at the right age. If they have permanent cognitive defects nothing will work better than ordinary education.

The return on investment on these bright kids has a limitless numerator. The return on investment for these defective children is zero. This awful autism bully organization deserves to have a visit by street justice administered by the parents of those bright, deprived kids.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 20, 2008 7:46:30 PM

I must disagree with Supremacy Claus on this point. I suggest that a greater understanding of the myriad phenotypic variations now understood to fall along the spectrum of the autism diagnosis is to thank for the increase in "cases". We reach this point through research to promote a greater understanding of this disease, and potential treatments. Please make sure that your vote in November reflects your opinion on this and other issues- if you support increased funding for research to improve health care, vote accordingly. Find out where your candidates stand at

Posted by: HLewis | Oct 21, 2008 11:13:23 AM

I would appreciate data to support any form of unified syndrome of autism, outside of a totally non-specific, final common pathway for 1000 causes of a deficit in relatedness. One clear association is with a mood disorder in mothers. These parents who will not let go may have a high rate of serious mental illness, and their obsessiveness may be a symptom. We may be spending $billions catering to the severe mental illnesses of the clients of bullying lawyers.

Most of the overdiagnosed kids are immature, in their language, in their social skills. Wait a couple of years, they miraculously improve. This happens with or without the $100K in bogus treatment outside of ordinary education and enriching life experience, such as team sports, family outings, invitations to normal kids activities.

I find these rich, entitled bullies to be pernicious, especially with their lawyers. These blood sucking lawyer predators are stealing every penny from the public. Worst of all? They are depriving superior poor kids who would blossom and zoom ahead with the slightest opportunity. These deprived but superior kids do not have vicious lawyers to intimidate schools. They rot in rotten local schools that crush all striving and intellectual enrichment, surrounded by future criminals and drug addicts having no need for any education.

Hillary Clinton promised $700 million in additional autism funding. That is a huge bribe to her teacher constituency for worthless make work. Such corruption dwarfs the biggest organized crime enterprise. Clinton is a lawyer. Obama is a lawyer. They will control government for the foreseeable future, and repay their constituencies.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 22, 2008 4:46:58 PM

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