April 2 is International Autism Awareness Day. As families in Columbia whose lives have been touched by autism mark the day, they can be glad to know that Missouri is among 32 U.S. states that require state-regulated health insurance plans to cover autism-related treatment and therapy. While some children with an autism spectrum disorder are able to succeed in school with relatively minor accommodations, many others need a great deal of occupational, behavioral and other forms of therapy.
These therapies can be highly effective, but they can also be costly. In states where insurance companies are allowed to deny coverage for autism treatment, families often struggle financially. One married in that situation has gone through its savings and twice had to enter into bankruptcy. They cannot afford to move to another state where they could receive insurance coverage for their 11-year-old son, who has serious behavioral and food issues.
Ironically, their state has one of the highest rates of autism spectrum disorders in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another resident who has two sons with autism says he has spent more than $20,000 for therapy for his children. Sadly, other parents who could not afford to care for their autistic children have been forced to give them up to foster care. That has happened dozens of times in that state over the last three years, the father of two said.
It is unfortunate that any child with a mental condition would have to live in poverty. For families dealing with a financial crisis, Supplemental Security Income may be able to help. The program provides benefits for children who are disabled and whose families are below a certain income level.
Source: ABC News, "Autism Bankrupts Families, Emotionally and Financially," Susan Donaldson James, April 2, 2013
· To learn more about SSI or Social Security disability, please visit our Columbia SSD page.