West Virginia (the state in which I practice) was not one of the 10 best places to live if you have autism, according to this year’s survey from Autism Speaks.1 Although thanks to a piece of legislation enacted this month, it is now a better place to live if you have autism. Your state can become better too.
After years of dedicated efforts by highly motivated advocates, on April 1, 2011, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed House Bill 2693 into law, making West Virginia the 25th state to enact autism insurance reform legislation.2 What a great way to start off Autism Awareness Month! The bill does cover only evidence-based treatments (including applied behavioral analysis) and has a cap on how much will be paid per child per year until 18 years of age. However, some coverage, opposed to no coverage before the bill, certainly makes things better.
My colleague, Susannah Poe, EdD is a member of the team responsible for this legislation. Dr Poe shares 2 strategies that pediatricians and others can implement when becoming child advocates in the political realm:
(1) You must find an ally in government and find out what your legislators already know about the issue at hand. Educating oneself about autism and meeting the individuals affected by it are powerful steps for gaining an appreciation of the disorder.
(2) You must highlight the cost effectiveness of a proposed legislation. When it comes to autism treatments, the large-scale economic effects should be considered. For example, earlier and consistent treatment of autism can result in more affected individuals being able to enter the workforce. If more persons with autism can work, then their parents and caregivers, who may otherwise have to stay to home, can also continue working. All of this participation in society generates more taxes! Emphasizing the overall positive economic impact is an important part to successful legislation.
Before becoming involved, we should be fully aware that child advocacy issues can take years to resolve, if they ever get resolved. We must be committed to withstand the highs and lows.
1. Autism Speaks. The 10 Best Places to Live if You Have Autism. Available at: http://www.autismspeaks.org/press/best_places_to_live_survey_results.php. Accessed on April 8, 2011.
2. Autism Votes. West Virginia becomes the 25th state to enact autism insurance reform legislation. http://www.autismvotes.org/site/c.frKNI3PCImE/b.4411973/k.935A/West_Virginia.htm. Accessed on April 8, 2011.