Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More Letters in Support of Ryan's Law

Here is a reprint of a letter to Senator Kaye Patterson from one of his constituents. The author of this letter is not a parent of a child with autism, but simply a friend of our cause.

Failure of insurance companies to pay for effective and physician-prescribed treatments for Pervasive Developmental Disorders is a fundamental disservice to the State and to its citizens. The purpose of insurance is to guard against catastrophic unforeseen medical issues and, just as importantly, to provide preventative and therapeutic treatments that, in the long run, save both the insured, the insurer, and society at large from even greater costs that arise from untreated medical issues. Autism, and other pervasive developmental disorders, fall into both areas. These are not "mental health" issues; they are neurological-physiological illnesses that respond to proper treatment.

There are currently therapies available to physicians for the treatment of pervasive developmental disorders. They are effective. They are expensive. I expect that my insurance carrier will pay for radiation and chemotherapy in the event that I, or my dependents are diagnosed with cancer. These treatments are also effective and expensive. Likewise, I expect that my carrier should pay for medically necessary therapies should my dependents be diagnosed with a developmental disorder. Such treatments are why people have insurance and pay their premiums. In exchange for these premiums insurance companies generate healthy profits. Failure to provide minimal adequate coverage saves nothing. Any immediate savings to insurers are doubtless lost to increased services necessary to support the families of those afflicted with these conditions. I submit that insurers likely lose many times the cost of fully covering insured beneficiaries with developmental disorders by underwriting the cost to the hospital system of treating the uninsured that walk in for treatment. If the insurance industry is concerned about this proposed legislation raising insurance rates, they are better served addressing that problem than by lobbying against this positive and necessary bill.

When insurance providers do not cover such costs, the financial burden is invariably and ultimately shifted to the state. Governmental medical and maintenance programs are inefficient and ineffective - eventually developmentally impaired individuals must be cared for by someone when their family members are unable to, or when they have passed on. That someone is the state. Untreated developmental issues also result in a reduction in productivity due to illness and/or care for ill family members when parents who cannot afford proper medical treatments are forced to care for their children as best they can. This financial and emotional strain on families places them under a huge amount of stress and leads to divorce in many cases. This further complicates the situation of the developmentally challenged child. All of these points aside, there is the most important issue of the quality of life of the child.

Autism and other developmental disorders are little understood medical conditions. This is largely due the the fact that, until fairly recently, such illnesses were treated by locking the patients away in an asylum. Children with autism, Asperger's, and other disorders were an "embarrassment," and were hidden away and feared as recently as the 1970s. The United States does not have a proud history of treating its developmentally impaired citizens. Fortunately, our society has moved beyond that - but our insurance companies have not. Now such children are feared by the insurance companies, not because of a lack of understanding of their disorders, but because of a fear that providing proper coverage to them will cut into the corporate bottom line. This position is reprehensible.
Failure to pay for readily available treatment effectively condemns these children to a lifetime of limited education, limited opportunities, limited function - essentially a modern asylum.

Developmentally challenged children can be and are a gift and a joy to their families, but there is no escape from the constant and never-ending care that is required for them. Eventually this takes its toll on anyone. With proper treatment, developmentally impaired children can function at a higher level, which puts them in a better position to take advantage of the public education system and other services, to contribute more to their communities and families, and to live richer, fuller lives. In short, covering these treatments is better for South Carolina and South Carolinians.

Some few states have courageously passed similar legislation already. They are leaders. South Carolina has a chance to lead as well. Let's not come in last in this area, too.

I ask Senator Patterson to carefully consider the testimony that will be presented to the sub-committee Thursday morning and to support this bill.

Geoffrey M. Clemens
Irmo, SC 29063


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