Autism is not a medical problem, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O"Fallon assures us her latest capital report, suggesting the reason autism legislation failed during the 2009 General Assembly is because it was a "feelgood" bill aimed at penalizing insurance companies by requiring them to cover something that should be handled by the public school system.
Apparently, Mrs. Davis is not only an expect on the subject of hunger and its motivational aspects, but also on autism. She writes, "Those pushing this bill were asking the medical insurance companies also to cover educational problems in a category called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). An educational difficulty is not the same as a medical problem. Autism is more than physical; above all, it is a spectrum of mental-behavioral inclinations that vary in intensity.
"Forcing the medical insurance companies to pay for this treatment would have been precedent setting by requiring them to pay for something non-medical."
Mrs. Davis offers her solution to the problem, which, of course, places the responsibility squarely on public education. Mrs. Davis' report is printed below:
My heartfelt admiration goes out to parents of an autistic child. Welcoming a newborn baby is such a joyous event, so it can be challenging when things don’t go as planned.
One of my favorite books, Parenting Isn’t For Cowards by Dr. James Dobson, explains some of the heroism necessary for effective child rearing. Parenting is riddled with all kinds of jolts that defy our expectations and add to the joys as well as difficulties of raising responsible adults. However when parents discover their child is autistic, they need even more quality affirmation and support from all of us in their lives.
A bill was introduced last session that failed because it:
1.) Would have forced private medical insurance companies to extend additional coverage beyond medical treatments for those diagnosed with this condition.
2.) Would have forced higher insurance premiums to cover these services, some of which more appropriately would be a function of our educational system.
3.) Was structured as an unfunded government mandate -which means it forces someone else to incur the cost associated with delivering a service- but doesn’t provide the resources to pay for it. Unfunded mandates are therefore de facto tax increases.
4.) Was anti-free market. People need to be free to make their own choices of what they want to buy.
5.) Was simply “feel good legislation” which would make the elected officials feel proud of them selves, but give the public the false sense that a problem has been solved. Had it passed, it would have benefited only 22% of those affected.
6.) Would have driven up medical insurance premiums for everyone else, further reducing the numbers of those who can purchase medical insurance.
7.) Would not have required special services for autistic children of persons covered through federally-regulated large employer plans (ERISA). These plans provide health care for approximately 30% of Missourians. All of this adds up to a larger gap between “the haves” and “the have-nots” and accomplishing nothing for those who have no medical insurance.
Most medical insurance companies already cover all the physical dysfunctions related to autism. Those pushing this bill were asking the medical insurance companies also to cover educational problems in a category called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). An educational difficulty is not the same as a medical problem. Autism is more than physical; above all, it is a spectrum of mental-behavioral inclinations that vary in intensity.
Forcing the medical insurance companies to pay for this treatment would have been precedent setting by requiring them to pay for something non-medical.
My solution is different:
Ø I am asking that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education evaluate whether the ABA could be provided within the context of their educational mission. Under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), each child with autism is served by their local school district. It is the local school district’s responsibility to provide a free, appropriate public education for students with disabilities.
Ø I also am asking for the State of Missouri to develop a training program for parents in ABA. Free classes could be offered on a regional basis and the same course could be placed on a website for a free downloaded. Studies show ABA is most effective when it is done 40 hours a week. Who is with a child more than his or her own family members?
Ø Additionally, I am asking the University system to set up a toll free helpline for parents to call with their questions. There is a substantial lack of information unless you are well connected to those with the answers. Knowledge is power. To empower parents, they need crucial information that benefits their children.
With my proposed plan, parents will be able to help their children with the support of their existing school district, while not raising premiums for others who struggle to afford health insurance. As one who lived without medical insurance for many years, I know how that feels. Most parents want to help their children, but simply do not know how. We can spend our tax dollars more effectively if we empower parents by providing them with the information they need to lovingly help their own children.
I remain optimistic that we can find free market solutions to our problems. Using the iron fist of big government to create additional insurance mandates that hide the true cost and help only a select number of children are unfair to everyone. All Missouri parents who have a child with autism deserve our help.