Autism Bankrupts Families, Emotionally and Financially


Utah is one of 18 states that has not banned the insurance industry from denying coverage of behavioral therapy for children with autism, according to a report in the Salt Lake City Tribune. As a result, some families have moved out of the state.

Private insurance is not the only one to discriminate against autism coverage. Under the military health program Tricare, dependents are entitled to that care under its "extended care health option" or ECHO.

"But It is only available for active duty [members] and falls way below what is medically recommended," said Karen Driscoll, a Marine wife and mother of a 14-year-old son with autism.

"At least once a week a family calls me to ask if there is anything you can do to help me," said Driscoll, 45, whose family now lives in Washington, D.C. "That includes wounded warriors."

Though Driscoll's husband is still eligible for Tricare, he has 28 years of service, and they are now worried about retirement. One family they know paid $100,000 out of pocket for care for their child.

"How do we plan our future?" she asked. "Our son requires tremendous support and assistance as a function of daily living, and it requires a lot to navigate. He will need lifelong care."

"If kids have access to service early on, they are not on the same trajectory," she said. "That's why I fight. Autism can be treated, and when received early, and intensively, the outcomes for that individual are altered significantly."

"We need to provide support for these military families," she said. "After what they have shouldered for a decade, you have to look at autism as well."

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