Sunday, April 1, 2012

Autism Awareness Month Day 1 - A Call to Action for Insurance Executives

(posted on UAC''s facebook page yesterday): The new autism prevalence rates of 1:88 children nationwide and 1:47 in Utah represent a call to each of us to take action now, in our own sphere of influence, for in that action there is so much hope for the many families and individuals affected by autism. For Autism Awareness month, the Utah Autism Coalition will be featuring a call to action to a group of individuals each day of April.

Day 1: A Call to Action for Insurance Executives.

Dear Insurance Executive,

          As the rates of autism continue to climb and answers as to what causes this disorder continue to evade us, you are hereby issued a call to action. You are called to take a stand now, before this ever-growing population becomes an adult population that is dependent upon society for much, if not all, of their care. You have in your power the ability to provide affordable, effective coverage for the diagnosis and evidence-based treatment that has been shown to reduce maladaptive symptoms of autism in 80-90% of those fortunate enough to receive it. Not only is this in your power, but this is ultimately in your best interest. The cost of treatment has been shown to be between $0.44 - $0.83 per member per month. The cost of NOT treating these children is so much more than financial; but if dollar signs are the only language you understand then you need to know that the care for an untreated individual with autism is estimated to be over $3 million dollars throughout their lifetime. The cost of offering effective, symptom reducing, life-enhancing, evidence-based treatment to children with autism seems rather small when put in those terms, doesn't it? And yet you continue to deny treatment to this vulnerable - and treatable - population.

         I recently spoke with a reporter who was inquiring about the problem parents face in accessing critical treatment for their children with autism. He posed an interesting question: "Is the only way to solve this problem to mandate insurance carriers to provide coverage for autism?" To that I responded, "No. There is nothing preventing insurance carriers from choosing to cover autism. The fact is, however, that they have seen the facts since 1987 and have deliberately chosen to continue the practice of discriminating against children with autism and to pass the burden of care onto to society, tax-payers and parents." It goes deeper than this, however. You have spent millions of dollars on lobbyists to fight against any legislation that would require coverage for autism. In a stroke of irony, one of your lobbyist approached me after a particularly devastating legislative meeting and told me that you are not against covering autism; you are just against a mandate requiring the coverage of autism. To that I responded, through gritted teeth and tears I refused to let fall in his presence, "Then show me the coverage."

         I repeat this call again. SHOW ME THE COVERAGE. This time my teeth are gritted, but the tears freely fall. Show me the coverage. Show the world you are a responsible industry. Show the world you are a team player in the healthcare industry. Show me the coverage. Spend your millions working toward solutions that are evidence-based and scientifically sound rather than paying high-powered lobbyists to fight against these solutions. As the numbers rise, I urge you... I plead with you... stop this insanity. Show me the coverage. Because one day, heaven forbid, you will find that YOU - yes you - are personally affected by this disorder in someway. You cannot continue to abandon this community, shirk social responsibility and perpetuate another lost generation and expect that society will not demand that you fulfill the role for which you exist: to cover medical conditions for your members. Show me the coverage.

         That said, I would like to highlight a group of responsible businesses who are self insured and have CHOSEN to address this problem head on. I would like to lead off with Home Depot, who has decided to offer an autism benefit to their employees 8 years ago. They continue to fight for awareness and equality in the medical coverage offered to children with autism. If fact, you can purchase autism awareness blue light bulbs there right now. Go buy a few and start today by lighting up your porch. Then show me the coverage. Other responsible self-adopting companies include:
  • Microsoft
  • Intel
  • Capital One 
  • Arnold & Porter
  • Eli Lilly
  • Deloitte
  • The Ohio State University
  • Mayo Clinic
  • HealthCentral
  • Lexington Medical Center
  • University of Minnesota
  • Progressive Group
  • Greenville Hospital System
  • Time Warner
  • City of Atlanta
  • Oracle
  • Adobe Systems Inc.
  • Yahoo Inc.
  • Cisco 
  • DTE Energy 
  • Princeton University
  • Children's Mercy
  • Aspect Software 
  • Partners Healthcare
         As you will notice, covering autism hasn't caused these companies financial strain. These are successful, thriving socially responsible organizations. Take a page from their book. You might find that doing the right thing doesn't feel as icky as you think it would and then you wouldn't have to endure the discomfort of being told what to do. Again: Show me the coverage.


The Utah Autism Coalition