The cost of treating autism

In a previous post titled “Autism…should health insurance cover treatment?” — I blogged about a parent who pushed through legislation in South Carolina to provide insurance coverage for autism services in that state. Now, a bill in the Ohio House would require health insurance companies to cover autism treatment in that state too — the same way they cover other medical conditions.

A November 8 story in the Columbus Dispatch called “The cost of treating autism” lays out two views of the debate. First, it quotes an insurance industry representative who worries autism is just another cause in a list of causes some people would like to see insurers cover:

“Each individual has the belief that their cause is the one that the government needs to find the solution to,” said Kelly McGivern, president of the Ohio Association of Health Plans. “We believe employers who buy policies should make the decision.”

On the other side of the debate, the story quotes Jacquie Wynn, director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Nationwide Children’s Hospital:

Autistic children, she said, need 30 hours to 40 hours of intervention a week. She said 30 percent of families who come to the center for treatment leave because they can’t afford it.

“There’s a cost savings in the reduction of aggressive behavior or the self-care skills they learn. With short-term, early intervention in their early years you see the payoff in their lifetime.”

We all know autism is treatable, so of course it makes sense to have health insurance cover autism. A growing number of states are instituting laws requiring coverage of autism services. Let’s hope Ohio will be next.  


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  1. Patrick Jeffries Says:

    While the process to find resources can sometimes feel overwhelming, remember there are trained people who can benefit both those with ASD and their loved ones.

  2. Elissa Says:

    Our son has high functioning autism. The cost of treatment to this point in his life has been huge for us (out of our own pockets).
    What has been difficult for us to come to terms with here in Australia is that if he had speech difficulties he would likely be eligible for funding for assistance at school, but because he can speak, he is not eligible for any sort of assistance in the public school system (regardless of the fact that he has other learning needs).
    More needs to be done for assistance in all areas.

  3. Megan Says:

    I think that the state governments need to realize the benefit it would be to itself if insurance covered the cost of therapy treatments related to ASD. We have a seven-year-old son with ASD who has been fortunate enough to have been in speech and occupational therapy to this point. The difference it has made in his life is tremendous. He does not require personal assistance in the classroom and does not require speech therapy or OT to be provided by the school. The benefit of early intervention pays for itself very quickly in the costs recovered by the school districts. The employer (big corporation) should realize the savings it will see in the stagnation of tax levied against the business it conducts if it were to cover Autism in it’s health insurance benefits plan. I think it is time corporations participate in the communities to which they belong. Our son has a good chance of becoming an independent, well-functioning adult because of the treatment he has received – and it’s been worth every dime we have spent!

  4. Patricia Wright Says:

    Dear Frustrated Mom – advocating for an appropriate education for your child can be significantly challenging. I have found that many parents have found support, information and expertise from other families who have experienced and overcome similar challenges. The Autism Society of America ( lists chapters by geographic region. You may be able to tie-in with a support group and garner support from others parents and care-providers

    Another excellent source of information (including specialized schools) is Autism Source ( Autism Source is also organized by geographic region. Hopefully you will be able to locate the resources you need.

    Individuals with Aspergers can be perplexing. With lots of skills in some areas their deficits can be difficult to discern. Providing some literature to the school about Aspergers, perhaps from O.A.S.I.S. (, might provide them with some additional informaiton about meeting the unique needs of your son. Continued conversation and information will ideally lead to greater understanding between the school and you and your son.

  5. Misty Says:

    I have an 11 year old with Asperger’s Syndrome. During the elementary years, we had a great Resource teacher that helped him. But now that we are in middle school we are fighting with them to follow the IEP. They have caused my son to regress. IT has gotten so bad that we had to make an emergency trip to his doctor because he had suicide thought. We have to see a therapist. With a letter from the doctor, the school denies that they are at no fault. I think because he is so smart they want to treat him like a typical child. Is there a school that deals mostly with autism near Springdale?


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