N.C. Lagging on Insurance for Autism Behind 29 States, Say Autism Society's Bridget Mora and Ex-White House/Congress Staff Robert Weiner on Eve of NC State Autism Conference; Oped Column in Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE and RALEIGH, N.C., March 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- North Carolina is lagging on insurance for autism behind 29 other states including neighbors South Carolina and Virginia, say Bridget Mora, a Orange-Chatham Counties Chapter Board Member of the Autism Society of North Carolina and mother of a four-year old son with Asperger's Disorder, and Robert Weiner, ex-White House staff and former chief of staff of the U.S. House Health Subcommittee and House Aging Committee.

The Autism Society of North Carolina annual conference, the largest autism gathering in the state, takes place in Charlotte Friday and Saturday. Mora and Weiner wrote an oped column in today's Charlotte Observer, "North Carolina Lagging on Insurance for Autism," in order to "bring to light a disability that has seen a rapid rise (in part because of better diagnoses)." They hope that "the conference may serve as a wake-up call that over 50,000 people in North Carolina and their families are now personally impacted by autism."

In the article, they point out that "according to the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, the rate of autism in North Carolina is 1 in 97, above the national rate of one in 110. Yet North Carolina lags behind 29 other states in the U.S. that have already passed autism insurance reform laws."

They continue, "It is time for the North Carolina legislature to follow the lead of neighboring states like South Carolina and Virginia, and pass the autism insurance reform bills which are languishing in committees (House Bill 826 and Senate Bill 115).

"An estimated 1.5 million Americans have an autism spectrum disorder, but most Americans have no understanding of what it is. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects brain function, emotional development, and social interaction. It affects every facet of daily living, including the ability to communicate, succeed in school, hold a job, maintain friendships, and live independently.

"While autism is not curable, it is treatable, especially with early diagnosis and treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses that intervention in children as young as 18 months old can dramatically improve lifetime prognosis.

"Individuals with autism in North Carolina currently face discrimination by health insurance policies that specifically exclude treatment for autism and developmental disabilities. Because state law does not mandate coverage, most companies deny coverage.

"To the families of the more than 50,000 individuals with autism in North Carolina, this is an outrageous exception to medically necessary health coverage. Would we accept it if other chronic medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, or heart conditions were excluded from treatment?"

Mora and Weiner assert that "with appropriate intervention, many children with autism can grow to be independent adults who contribute to society and have a meaningful quality of life. Without intervention, individuals are far more likely to require lifetime support from their families, the school system, and the government.

"Later life can be filled with employment and social difficulties for adults as they age. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 only 28.6 percent of individuals aged 16 to 64 with a disability were in the labor force. The lost productivity and earning potential costs everyone.

"The cost of therapy for autism is more than a typical family or individual can afford, up to $50,000 per year. Parents have a reasonable right to expect that their health insurance premiums will cover necessary services for their children, something which the Coverage For Treatment of Autism Disorders bill would address."

They contend that "insurance lobbyists have tried to use scare tactics to convince state legislatures that the cost of adding autism coverage to existing health plans would increase premiums by 1 to 3 percent for all subscribers. However, studies have proved that to be false. In states that have tracked the costs of claims following the enactment of autism insurance laws, the average premium increase is only 31 cents per month. For less than the cost of an apple a month, North Carolina's children with autism can be helped. Even that cost will be overwhelmingly paid back to society by productivity.

"The current versions of the Coverage For Treatment of Autism Disorders bills were introduced to the North Carolina General Assembly in 2010 by a coalition of autism advocates, state legislators, and organizations."

The authors conclude, "Legislators across the state need to know the importance of the Coverage For Treatment of Autism Disorders bill, and vote to end discrimination against people with autism."

Bridget Mora is a chapter Board Member of the Autism Society of North Carolina, the mother of a four-year old son with Asperger's Disorder, and author of http://www.chartnc.blogspot.com/, a blog dedicated to sharing information and resources for autism in the Triangle region. Robert Weiner is a former White House spokesman and former chief of staff of the U.S. House Health Subcommittee and House Aging Committee. For more information, contact the Autism Society of North Carolina at 919-743-0204.

Link to article:
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/03/28/3131573_nc-lagging-on-insurance-for-autism.html

Contact: Bob Weiner/Richard Mann 301-283-0821 or cell 202-306-1200

SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates




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