Monday, June 04, 2007

South Carolinians Write to Governor About Ryan's Law

Dear Governor Sanford:

My 6-year old son was diagnosed with autism shortly after his 2nd birthday. Over the past 4 years, I have become very familiar with treatments options and insurance coverage issues. The attached editorial I wrote published in the Myrtle Beach Sun News several weeks ago explains these issues in more detail. This legislation is critically necessary for our children.

My son, who received the type of early-intervention intensive therapy and services this legislation would provide on a wide scale to children across our state, graduated from his typical Kindergarten class at Myrtle Beach Primary School this week and received honors as Outstanding Reader in his class (proud pic attached). I don't mean to suggest he is cured, there is no cure, he has a shadow and there will be challenges ahead for him, but the strides he has made since that cold day in February 2003 when three experts shot a hole through the hearts of my wife and I (with the words "I'm sorry to tell you your son is autistic") have been breathtaking. And that would not have been the case without the type of therapy and treatment that this legislation will make more readily available to children across our state.

Lastly, this is a compromise bill that the insurance industry has worked with the autism community on and agreed to - specifically, small group and individual insurance policies are exempt from providing this type of coverage. And it is a fiscally responsible bill. Providing coverage for effective early-intervention therapy results in a greater likelihood of children growing up to be self-sufficient adults; not providing such coverage results in the opposite effect. Study and study shows the state pays much more money in public dollars to support the latter scenario.

If you have any questions about my experiences within the context of this legislation please feel free to contact me at this email address or at 843-685-2788.

I feel certain you will look at this bill and the surrounding issues closely and do what you think is best for our state and its children.

Thank you,

Editorial from Myrtle Beach Sun News

Ryan's Law is a bill under consideration by the state legislature that would have insurance companies cover doctor-prescribed treatment of autism. Autism is a neurological condition that severely impairs the communication and social abilities of the children it affects, resulting in developmentally disabled children and institutionalized adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every 150 children born today will be diagnosed with some form of autism. It is the fastest-growing and most prevalent developmental disability in America.
There are two undeniable facts your readers and every legislator voting on this legislation should know about autism. First, early intervention is critical to overcoming its disabling effects. There is a window of opportunity where autistic children can make significant, remarkable progress with the right therapy. I have seen this first-hand with my own son. Second, Applied Behavioral Analysis is the only therapy proven by studies in peer-reviewed journals to produce results and significantly improve the abilities of children with autism. It consists of intensive one-on-one therapy. While parents who can afford the $25,000-plus annual cost of ABA are able to give their children a real chance to grow up and live a meaningful life, most parents must rely on grossly inadequate services provided by state agencies or the schools, denying their children a chance to succeed. If passed, the proposed legislation will change this.
Parents seeking to provide effective early! -intervention ABA therapy for their children will not find much help via state agencies and Medicaid - the only practical choice is to pay for it yourself.

ABA programs sponsored by state agencies are basically training and informational classes about how to set up and run an ABA program, and the waiting list for receiving what little therapy they do provide is months, even years long, which is unacceptable when you're in a race against time to help your child beat autism. When legislators oppose this bill because they want to protect insurance companies at the expense of overburdened state agencies and school districts, taxpayers end up shouldering the burden.

The House and Senate should pass Ryan's Law without tacking on amendments designed to gut its effectiveness. It's time for health insurance companies to step up to the plate and provide the coverage they are paid premiums to cover.

Please do not fall for the insurance lobby's doomsday predictions of drastically higher health insurance premiums if this bill passes. Although they denied coverage at first, my insurance company did end up covering a significant amount of my son's ABA therapy. That insurance company and my employer at that time are still flourishing. Most importantly, after several years of ABA therapy, my son evolved from a child with no language at all to a 6-year old who, like most kids his age, talks so much (in full meaningful sentences) that we can't get him to shut up. Some parents might complain about such things. My wife and I can't help but smile. Every child with autism deserves the same opportunity to thrive.

Please pass this bill.

The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.


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